Sitting behind a table on the stage at Bridgehampton High School, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Randy Altschuler of St. James -- the Republican who wants his job -- traded verbal jabs Monday night like fighters near the end of an 18-round match.
They had both heard many of the questions before, and responded smoothly.
Asked about the outsourcing of jobs, Altschuler, accused of helping refine the practice, said the way to keep jobs in America is to lower energy costs, trim government regulations and cut "the highest corporate tax rate in the industrial world."
Bishop, asked about partisan gridlock in Washington, said he had joined 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans to try to deal with the nation's financial crisis by "putting everything on the table." But, he said, it failed to pass because so many House Republicans had pledged not to raise taxes.
Bishop was asked about a charge that he improperly solicited a campaign contribution and claims that he is corrupt. He responded that the allegations were "grotesque," since the woman who made them admitted she did not know the facts in the case.
Altschuler said Bishop has not voted for a budget in three years. "I'm in the minority," Bishop responded. "I can only vote on what they [Republicans] bring to the floor."
The debate drew more than 200 people to the 100-year-old school district, and they sat quietly on folding chairs in the school gym as the moderator read questions from index cards that were passed up and those that were called in from a local radio station.
Toward the end of the debate, both men agreed on one thing -- that Social Security must be saved. And they both said the way to do it would likely involve making people wait longer to collect benefits, raising the upper limit on how much pay can be taxed or imposing some kind of needs test.
They also agreed the tax loopholes must be closed.
Altschuler said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has dealt with the issue in his policy statements, while Bishop said the five biggest oil companies made $137 billion, but paid no taxes and were subsidized with federal tax credits.
Altschuler said he would vote to close that loophole.
Altschuler said Bishop should be replaced because he is a partisan who votes with fellow Democrats more than 90 percent of the time.