Congressman Bishop, challenger Altschuler square off in Wading River debate

10/06/2010 4:46 PM |

The first of many candidate forums featuring Congressman Tim Bishop and his Republican opponent Randy Altschuler to be held in the final weeks leading up to the the November 2 elections kicked off at Monday night’s meeting of the Eastern Long Island Executives at East Wind in Wading River.
Both men said they came from modest backgrounds. Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton), who has been in Congress for eight years, said his father worked 90-hour weeks for the phone company and his family lived paycheck to paycheck. He said he tried to cast votes based on how legislation will affect the kind of working family he grew up in.
Mr. Altschuler (R-St. James) said he was brought up by a single mother, his father having departed when he was eight. He said his mother had no job at the time, but managed to send him to college.
The two candidates gave separate speeches and did not interact; Mr. Bishop, who spoke first, left without hearing Mr. Altschuler’s speech.
One controversial piece of legislation that Mr. Bishop supported and which he thinks is misunderstood is the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
“A lot of people think it was a bailout of Wall Street,” he said. “But in the week that Lehman Brothers failed in September of 2008, there were 16 multi-million-dollar homes under construction in the Hamptons on which work stopped.”
Mr. Bishop said the owners of those houses probably were still all right, but the hundreds of carpenters and plumbers and other contractors who were working on the houses were suddenly put out of work.
“TARP wasn’t about bailing out Wall Street,” he said. “It was about bailing out Main Street.”
The ongoing restoration of the rail spur leading into Calverton Enterprise Park is another example of something that was funded with federal dollars but will help the local economy and get more trucks off the road.
Mr. Bishop said he thought the government needed to stimulate spending in order to get the economy back on track because people don’t spend money when they are out of work.
The federal Recovery Act was about priming the pump and creating jobs, he said.
Suffolk County received more stimulus funding than any other county in the state, and stimulus money saved the jobs of thousands of teachers, he said.
Mr. Bishop said he opposes having a Shinnecock Indian casino in the region because the amount of traffic it would generate would be inappropriate for the “East End.”
Mr. Altschuler said he’d been in business all his life. He co-founded a company called OfficeTiger, which provided business support services, and then sold it to RR Donnelley in 2006. After that, he co-founded CloudBlue, which recycles electronic equipment. He said he didn’t become interested in politics until after his son was born three years ago.
“I was very concerned about the direction this country was going,” he said. “I didn’t think the men and women in Congress represented us properly, partly because most of them have never worked in the private sector before.”
He said most members of Congress “have never met a payroll before and they fundamentally believe government is the solution to our problems, not the private sector. I believe that is a fundamental difference between me and Tim Bishop. I think the answer to our economic problems is boosting the private sector and helping small businesses, because only they can create more jobs. Government jobs don’t help the tax base.”
He said he believed several of the programs Mr. Bishop voted for hurt the economy, such as the health care bill, which Mr. Altschuler said would lead to private companies dropping their health care coverage for their employees.
Mr. Altschuler was asked to respond to charges that he outsourced jobs overseas while at OfficeTiger, a charge made by Mr. Bishop and by Republican opponents in the September primary.
“We did not outsource American jobs and move them overseas,” Mr. Altschuler said. “I’ve created over 700 jobs in the United States. We had an international business and we had customers and employees all around the world so we were a functioning company everywhere.”
But he said that high taxes and government regulations were responsible for driving companies overseas, and he questioned how many private sector jobs Mr. Bishop has created.
tgannon@timesreview.com

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