Tag Archive | "Lee Zeldin"

Meet the Candidates Night Becomes One-Man Show

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U.S. Representative Tim Bishop listened to Sag Harbor resident Bob Malafronte at an evening sponsored by the Noyac Civic Council. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

What was supposed to be a meet the candidates night with U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and his Republican challenger, Lee Zeldin, sponsored by the Noyac Civic Council Tuesday night, instead turned out to be a one-man show featuring Mr. Bishop.

Citing a scheduling conflict, Mr. Zeldin first tried to cancel his appearance Tuesday afternoon, before agreeing to arrive at 9 p.m., two hours after his scheduled slot, to informally meet voters.

The Republicans sent Southampton Town Trustee Ed Warner as a stand-in, who deferred most questions of national issues to Mr. Zeldin.

Noyac Civic Council president Elena Loreto on Tuesday said that Mr. Zeldin’s camp had informed her its candidate would not be able to attend the event at 2 p.m. that day, citing another scheduled appearance upisland and despite confirming on Friday that he would appear.

Mr. Bishop said at his previous appearances before the council, helicopter noise was the chief concern. This time none of the two dozen people attending asked about that, instead peppering him with questions about everything from budgets to energy policy.

In his opening statement, Mr. Bishop said he was proud of his record of constituent service and cited his role as one of four sponsors of federal waterways legislation, which he described as one of only 26 pieces of “substantive legislation” passed by the current Congress. The bill successful, he said, because its sponsors engaged in the lost art of compromise, which, he said, has become a “four-letter word” in Washington.

Mr. Bishop said he was particularly proud of his role in helping reform the federal student loan program, which he said, ended $61 billion in bank subsidies and resulted in an additional $26 billion being funneled to Pell Grants to aid the neediest students.

“I ran for Congress because I wanted to be a voice for the middle class,” Mr. Bishop said, recounting how his father used to work an average of  80 hours a week for the phone company to put five children through college. “I used to hate the phone company because I couldn’t understand how they could make this guy who had five kids work every Christmas.” It was only when he was in college, he said, that he learned that his father had put in for the overtime.

Audience members had some tough questions. Reg Cornelia of Springs, said Democrats had prevented inquiries into many scandals.

“What bugs me the most is this IRS scandal,” Mr. Cornelia said. “You and your colleagues have done everything to thwart this investigation.”

“Your characterization is simply not accurate,” Mr. Bishop responded, pointing out that the Internal Revenue Service’s inspector general, a nonpartisan investigator, had determined that the IRS had simply not targeted Tea Party organizations in its efforts to determine whether political groups qualified for tax exempt status, but had also investigated liberal organizations.

Carole Campolo, another East Hampton resident, said the country has been brought to the precipice of financial calamity annually and asked why the federal government has failed to pass a budget since 2009.

Mr. Bishop said that while the budget itself may be an “overrated document” in that Congress achieves the same ends by passing appropriations bills, he said it was a “bipartisan failure,” said that both President Bush and President Obama had sent annual budget proposals to Congress.

Stu Jones, another East Hampton resident, said it was his understanding that no more soldiers were being sent to Afghanistan, but said his son had just received his third posting there. Mr. Bishop thanked Mr. Jones for his son’s service, but explained his being sent back to Afghanistan had to do with troop rotations, not a clandestine increase in force levels.

“If it was up to me I would have been out of Afghanistan a long time ago, and if was up to me I have never gone into Iraq,” Mr. Bishop said. “I think that was the single greatest foreign policy mistake this nation has ever made.’

James Sanford of Sag Harbor wanted to know why New Yorkers pay more for natural gas, a problem he said was caused by a shortage of pipelines and storage capability. He also wanted to know Mr. Bishop’s position on fracking.

The congressman responded that most pipelines are privately owned said he saw no “federal impediment” to more lines being built. As to fracking, Mr. Bishop said he supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cautious approach, saying a national policy has to be formulated for dealing with wastewater.

Gene  Polito of Noyac pressed Mr. Bishop on his support of natural gas as a source of energy, saying “global warming is for real” and carbon dioxide levels had to be reduced. “We ignore its implications at its own peril,” he said.

Janet Verneuille of Sag Harbor wanted to know what Mr. Bishop’s stance on the practice of corporations moving their headquarters offshore to save on taxes and asked if he favored lowering the American corporate tax rate.

“I think it is an obscenity that corporations are more interested in the bottom line than in the country that has allowed them to be successful,” Mr. Bishop said, pointing out that they had benefited from a publicly educated workforce and publicly provided infrastructure.

He added, though, that while the American corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world the actual amount collected as a percentage of gross domestic product is the lowest. He said he favored reforming the corporate tax structure.

Nada Barry of Sag Harbor asked about the prospects for meaningful immigration reform. Mr. Bishop said he was not optimistic and said when the Senate passed a decent bill, House Speaker John Boehner announced it “dead on arrival.”


Sag Harbor Votes For Change In Historic National Election

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While Bay Street Theatre may not have been able to boast the crowds that packed Chicago’s Grant Park, on Tuesday night there was a palpable sense of excitement in Sag Harbor as village residents gathered at the theatre, The American Hotel and Bay Burger to bear witness to the historic Presidential election of Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Obama, the Democratic candidate, was not just successful in the Electoral College, where he bested Republican Arizona Senator John McCain 349 to 163, with 26 electoral votes out of North Carolina and Missouri still hanging in the balance as of Wednesday, but took states like Indiana and Virginia – states that had not voted for a Democratic president in decades. He was also able to easily take the popular vote collecting roughly 63 million votes to McCain’s 56 million.

Nationally, an estimated 64 percent of the electorate turned out on Tuesday to cast their ballots for president – a record turnout. However, residents of Suffolk County appear to take their voting seriously year in and year out, with an estimated 70 percent of registered voters pulling the lever for a presidential candidate this election cycle. In 2004, about 72 percent of the electorate stepped out to vote in the presidential contest between Democrat John Kerry and President George W. Bush.

As was the case in 2004, a majority of Suffolk County and East End residents voted for the Democratic candidate this year, with Obama taking approximately 52 percent of the votes cast to McCain’s 47 percent. On the East End, and in particularly Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Noyac, North Haven and Sagaponack Obama won by far greater margins.

On the Southampton Town side of Sag Harbor (districts 1 and 21) 741 voters turned out to support Obama, with McCain earning 309 votes. On the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor, 515 residents turned out in support of the Democratic candidate, with 124 voting for McCain. In Northwest Woods, 533 of the electorate pulled the lever for Obama with 232 voting for McCain.

In Noyac (districts 2 and 36), Obama took 725 votes with McCain clocking in with 428. In North Haven-Baypoint, voters handed Obama 432 votes and McCain a solid 368. In Bridgehampton and Sagaponack (districts 3 and 13), Obama snared 830 votes to McCain’s 369.

While there may have been a number of supporters of the Republican candidate on the East End, at Bay Street Theatre and The American Hotel on Tuesday night, prior to the election being called in Obama’s favor, it was as if he had already won the race with many residents offering their enthusiasm and advice for the man who would later that evening become the United State’s first African-American President.

Sag Harbor resident Mia Grosjean said she had little advice for the president-elect, as he already seemed to be moving in the direction she supports – community activism.

“Encourage young people to remain active, get involved and make a difference,” piped in Helen Samuels of her hopes for Obama.

“Govern with peace and justice,” advised Dennis Carr.

Many also spoke of their desire to see a country united, and their hope the 47-year old senator will be the man to do just that.

“To make people proud to be in this country and to make it something it was when I was a child,” said North Haven resident Richard Demato of his hopes for the Obama regime. “Make it something to be excited about.”

“I want him to bring us together,” said another guest at The American Hotel on Tuesday night. “And never forget he’s the president of the whole country.”

 Congressman Tim Bishop, who handily regained his seat in the United States House of Representatives securing 58 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Lee Zeldin’s 42 percent, had similar thoughts about the future of the federal government and the mandate he says the American people have now handed the Democratic Party, which will have control of the House, the Senate and the Executive branches.

“I think that it gives us great hope for the future,” said Bishop. “I think the other thing is we have to be very careful to not make the same mistakes the Republican Party made when it had a majority, where the national party really allowed itself to be moved to the right. We, as a party, need to resist the temptation to move to the far left. We need to recognize that we need to achieve balance and govern from the middle. That is Obama’s message, and it is an important one.”

Like Obama, Bishop took every election district in Sag Harbor, Noyac, North Haven and Baypoint, in Northwest Woods, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack, often securing more than double the votes Zeldin was able to gather in his inaugural bid for political office.

In a prime example of the continued success of the Democratic Party on Tuesday, Democrat Sally Pope bested incumbent Republican Dan Russo to earn a seat on the Southampton Town Board securing 52 percent of the vote to Russo’s 48 percent by a narrow margin of 741 votes. However, with over 2,000 absentee ballots expected to be counted next Wednesday, Russo has said the race is too close to call.

According to preliminary results out of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Russo was only able to win two districts in our area – one in Sagaponack-Bridgehampton (district 13) and the other in Noyac (district 36). Pope took the remaining districts in Sag Harbor, one in Noyac, in North Haven and another in Bridgehampton.

Sag Harbor resident and Democratic candidate for Southampton Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni also appears to have been successful in her attempt to oust Republican justice Thomas DeMayo, taking 56.5 percent of the electorate to DeMayo’s 43.5 percent by earning 2,822 more votes than the incumbent. Schiavoni won all districts in Sag Harbor, Noyac, North Haven and Baypoint, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and in Northwest Woods.

One Republican on the East End who coasted to victory with relative ease was incumbent New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. who won his seat over Democratic challenger W. Michael Pitcher with 63 percent of the vote to Pitcher’s 37 percent. Thiele was victorious by over 12,000 votes.

New York State Senator Ken LaValle, a Republican incumbent who was running unopposed also earned reelection in Tuesday’s race.

But like many Republicans nationwide, Thiele is looking at a Democratic majority, not just in the assembly, but likely in the senate with a Democratic governor in place.

However, Thiele is not worried, noting he was pleased to see 15 percent of voters who turned out to support him did so under party lines that were not Republican, meaning those outside his party supported his bid for reelection.

“My approach has always been to not be overtly partisan,” said Thiele. “I think that is what people are looking for in government.”


Focus On Economy As Congressional Race Nears

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With just a month left before East End residents hit voting booths on November 4, incumbent U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, a Democrat, finds himself in a race for his seat in the House of Representatives against a 28-year-old attorney and Iraqi war veteran, Republican Lee Zeldin who has thrown his hat — and divergent opinions — into the political ring.

This week, both candidates took some time to discuss a wide range of issues as they look towards squaring off in a League of Women Voters of the Hamptons sponsored debate in Hamptons Bays on October 16 at 7 p.m.

With brokers on Wall Street and residents on Main Street watching news on the nation’s uncertain economy with trepidation, Bishop and Zeldin present differing opinions on the cause, and ultimate solution to what has emerged as one of the central questions this political season.

Bishop, a 12th generation Southampton Town resident and former provost at Southampton College, sees a number of issues driving an unstable economy — an economy he says is a result of eight years of failed economic policies under president George W. Bush’s administration.

“That was exacerbated by a serious meltdown in the housing market, which has now brought rise to serious freezing of the credit market,” explained Bishop on Tuesday. “We have people losing jobs, the cost of everything is going up. We have diminished credit markets and a spike in foreclosures. So I see at the very least four severe, but interrelated problems.”

Bishop says the government must be an active part of a solution to mitigate these problems, with the recently passed $700 billion bailout bill as just a piece of the solution.

“I am very hopeful that once it starts to move, once it starts to work through the financial system it will have beneficial results,” he said.

Bishop also calls for a second economic stimulus package to compliment the package passed by Congress last February. The House of Representatives did pass a $66 billion stimulus package two weeks ago with some bi-partisan support, noted Bishop, although the bill was stalled in the Senate. He said it went a long way towards helping those who will feel this economic pinch the most by, in part, extending unemployment limits and providing monies to states for infrastructure, which in turn would create employment opportunities.

While Zeldin, a Shirley resident, acknowledges the country is in the midst of a financial crisis, he disagrees that the $700 billion bailout plan, in either incarnation, is the solution the American people need to get through the predicament.

“I don’t believe Main Street should have to bail out Wall Street,” said Zeldin. “Seven hundred billion, not to mention all the added pork, made it a bill I truly lost sleep over when it passed.”

Zeldin did argue that private capital, rather than taxpayer dollars, should have been injected into Wall Street.

He added that he sees himself disagreeing with a number of Washington insiders when it comes to the subject, noting not just Democrats, but Republicans, including president Bush and presidential candidate John McCain have disagreed, supporting the bail out instead.

“I see things, unfortunately, in the short term, getting worse before they get better,” said Zeldin. “We are going into a winter where people are going to be shocked by high heating costs in [comparison to what will amount to] a small mortgage payment. So for many of us living paycheck to paycheck, it will be a rough winter.”

Ultimately, Zeldin believes government needs to curb wasteful spending before it will truly help the American people, calling for an earmark moratorium until the system is fixed to where it no longer represents quid pro quo between politicians and lobbyists. He would also like to see untaxed income that leaves the country through money wiring services taxed and given back to the communities it originates from to bring down the costs of school and property taxes.

 Zeldin sees that issue tied directly to what he called the government’s failed immigration policies. For the last two years, H-2B visas have been a source of contention for local business reliant on the federal program for legal, seasonal workers from overseas. In recent years, the program has been limited, leaving many without a seasonal workforce.

Zeldin said more H-2B visas should be granted, but added there also needs to be accountability enforced when it comes to immigration policies.

“When I started my race in Amagansett in January of 2008, I talked to someone with a small business that was going under because he refused to pay employees off the books, which would have allowed him to compete with those not paying taxes for their workers or workman’s compensation,” said Zeldin. “That is a real problem.”

Bishop, who has worked with local business leaders in trying to find a solution to the H-2B crisis, acknowledged he and other members of Congress from areas dependent on seasonal tourism were unsuccessful in their fight to fix the situation.

“We will go back at it this winter,” he said. “Unfortunately, the H-2B visa problem got caught up in the larger issue of the immigration debate.”

Bishop still supports the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, which would have provided a path to citizenship or legal status for a number of illegal immigrants currently working or living in the United States.

“It’s a good bill,” said Bishop. “I believe we need to somehow summon the wisdom and political will to act on that. But at minimum, we have to fix the H-2B visa problems and the agricultural visa issues. Talk to vineyard owners and small vegetable farmers on the North Fork. Eighty eight percent say they can accommodate no loss in their immigrant work force.”

Zeldin said he does not support McCain-Kennedy, and would rather see those immigrants in the United States assimilate into the country, rather than the country assimilate to them.

Bishop sees his work on a number of issues including Federal Aviation Administration legislation to mandate altitude limits for helicopters, work with the Army Corps of Engineers for a Fire Island to Montauk coastal erosion study, and tax initiatives to prevent farmers from having to sell their land in the face of looming estate taxes as just a few he is tackling in his sixth year as a congressman.

“I think my opponent is offering a lot more of the same,” said Bishop. “I offer the same level of commitment I have for the last six years and I believe with my experience and I believe with a majority in the house, the senate and, I am fairly certain, the White House, I will be in a position to influence policy decisions.”

If elected, Zeldin has a number of initiatives he would like to explore, including pushing the East End to the forefront of environmental sustainability, he said. But ultimately, he sees his values as what should ultimately give him an edge over Bishop come November.

“Adding my voice to congress is adding an independent voice who understands no leader in any party is right serving this congressional district by voting with his party 99 percent of the time,” said Zeldin, attacking a predisposition by Bishop, he said, towards simply voting his party line. “What we need is to send a bulldog to Washington that is going to fight for us, stand up for us across party lines … we need to be more fiscally responsible in how we tax and spend.”