Bishop, Altschuler face off in 8th debate

Congressman Tim Bishop shakes hands with opponent, congressional Congressman Tim Bishop shakes hands with opponent, congressional candidate Randy Altschuler at the close of thier debate at the Riverhead Baptist Church. (Sept. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/ Thomas A. Ferrara

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By now, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican challenger, St. James businessman Randy Altschuler, could probably deliver each other's platforms with ease.

But last night, as they debated for the eighth time in the past month -- not counting more than a dozen other forums in which they have both appeared -- the 1st Congressional District candidates stuck with their respective, and well-honed, messages.

For Bishop, a five-term incumbent, that was continuing to stress his efforts to aid eastern Suffolk's middle-class families by fighting corporate outsourcing and federal higher-education cuts, and seeking to make Medicare more efficient.

For Altschuler, that was arguing that his private-sector experience would help him lessen regulations for businesses and create jobs, reduce federal spending and break through partisan gridlock in the House.

The men faced off in the League of Women Voters-moderated debate in front of more than 100 people at Westhampton Beach High School. As in past debates, they found common ground in their calls for comprehensive immigration and campaign-finance reform, and for closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs offshore.

They differed greatly, however, on President Barack Obama's recent executive order that temporarily stops the deportation of some young undocumented immigrants. Altschuler said he didn't support "cherry picking" just some individuals for a path to citizenship.

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"If you don't have comprehensive immigration reform you're never going to solve the problem," he said.

But Bishop said that the GOP House leadership simply will not bring that reform to the table, so he supported taking any positive action possible in the meantime. "Until that's politically achievable," he said of comprehensive reform, "we have to take what steps we can."

Last night's debate leaves two more on the schedule before Election Day, Nov. 6. It lasted only an hour because, in keeping with the campaign's busy schedule, Bishop and Altschuler had another candidate forum to make.

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