As they campaign in the Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District, Grant M. Lally and Stephen A. Labate are touting their conservative credentials and their belief in lower taxes and less federal regulation.
But while Labate describes himself as an "outsider," Lally bills himself as a "known quantity" for having worked with a list of prominent politicians in Nassau County and Washington.
Labate, 46, a Deer Park financial planner and Iraq War veteran, is running against Grant Lally, 52, a Lloyd Harbor attorney who worked George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential recount, and who is backed by the Nassau, Suffolk, and state GOP committees.
Both are looking to unseat veteran Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in a district that covers most of Long Island's North Shore, including northwestern Suffolk, northern Nassau and northeast Queens. Both paint Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as out of touch with the district.
As of June 12, the most recent FEC campaign filings, Labate had raised $21,105, spent $55,672 and had $5,635 in the bank. Lally reported raising $31,010 and spending $18,133, and had $28,320 in cash.
Knocking on doors in Hicksville recently, Labate told residents that his story resembled that of Jimmy Stewart's character in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the 1939 movie about a political novice heading to Congress looking to do right.
"I'm a 25-year Army officer, I've never held elected office and people resonate with that story," Labate told one Republican who opened his door.
Labate ran for the 3rd District seat in 2012 against Israel, ) losing by a margin of 57.58 percent to 41.65 percent. He chalks up the loss to not spending enough time campaigning in Nassau, after the district's lines were redrawn in 2012, shortly before the general election. This year he is focusing on canvassing efforts throughout the district.
"We know the battleground now," said Labate.
Labate is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves who was called to active duty for the Iraq War three times and was deployed to Northern Iraq once. In two other deployments he worked at the Pentagon and at a “classified location.” He lives in Deer Park with his wife and their 8-year-old twins, a boy and girl.
Shaking hands with prospective voters at a Franklin Square senior citizens event recently, Lally shared stories about growing up in Nassau and attending public events with his mother, retired state Supreme Court Justice Ute Lally.
"People know who I am," Lally said. "I worked with President [George W.] Bush . . . I worked with [U.S.] Senate Republicans. I've worked with Ed Mangano . . . I'm very much a known quantity."
Lally said he often advised the Bush administration on Irish-American issues.
Lally ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman in 1994 and 1996. In 1998, Lally agreed to pay a $280,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission for accepting illegal campaign donations during the 1994 election, and falsely reporting them. Lally said he paid the fine because it would have cost him more in legal fees to defend himself in a lengthy auditing process.
He and his wife, Deborah Misir, who served as an attorney in the White House Counsel's Office under President George W. Bush, run the Mineola law firm Lally & Misir.
Labate and Lally share similar positions on a variety of issues. Both said they would vote to repeal President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, and that they support tax cuts to spur economic activity and better border security.
Labate, drawing on his military experience, said he also would focus on improving the lives of veterans. He backs an overhaul of Veterans Affairs in the wake of reports of fake waiting lists at VA hospitals and long waits for care.
"The only way to fix the VA is to apply free market solutions, like a voucher system, so our veterans can have greater access to the free market health care system when it becomes necessary," Labate said.
Lally, touting his connections in Washington and on Long Island, said he would work to secure additional federal funding for local infrastructure projects, including underground power lines in Port Washington and Manhasset to replace those that were damaged in superstorm Sandy.
"I would love to see us locally being more of the beneficiary of federal support," Lally said. " . . . I've lived in the district my entire adult life. I'm aware of the needs."
CORRECTIONS: In a previous version of this story, information about Stephen A. Labate's military deployments and a past run for Congress were incorrect. The name of congressional candidate Grant Lally’s wife, Deborah Misir, was misspelled in a story Monday. The name of the firm the couple runs, Lally & Misir, was misstated.