The Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) pits two candidates who agree on repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting government regulation, but disagree over who has the best chance of winning the general election.
Bruce Blakeman, 58, the GOP-endorsed candidate, has had a lengthy political career, serving as presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature and a member of the Hempstead Town Board. Blakeman, also endorsed by the Conservative Party, ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller in 1998 and U.S. Senate in 2010.
His opponent, New Hyde Park attorney Frank Scaturro, 41, is a political outsider who has used his candidacy to attack the "authoritarian" culture of Nassau's Republican Party.
Running without party support, Scaturro lost primaries in 2010 and 2012 for the GOP line in the 4th District, but says he's counting on improved name recognition and fundraising to win the June 24 primary.
"If we want to address this crisis of mismanagement in government that is mortgaging our future, then change needs to start with someone who has walked the walk and someone who has stood up to the special interests," Scaturro said.
Blakeman said he presents the best chance to defeat Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice or county legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who are competing in the Democratic primary.
"I am the true, grassroots Republican in the race," Blakeman said. "And, if voters want to elect a conservative Republican to Congress, I am the only one in the race who can defeat the Democratic candidate."
The 4th Congressional District covers 110 square miles, from Westbury to Long Beach, and Woodmere to Wantagh.
Blakeman, who was raised in Valley Stream and lives in Long Beach, said he wants to slash government spending, reduce regulation of small business and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
A commissioner at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey from 2001-2009, he works as a part-time legal consultant.
Blakeman spent several hours last week chatting with homeowners along flag-lined streets in East Rockaway.
Many homeowners said they remembered Blakeman from his time in the county legislature, when he represented the district.
"Bruce is the right man for the job," said Robert Cipriano, who lives on Seawane Road with his wife, Lorraine. "He believes in what we believe."
But resident Rosemary Brosnan said she was undecided and wanted to learn more about the candidates' policies on taxes and repairing the Bay Park sewage treatment plant, which was damaged heavily during superstorm Sandy.
"I need to be updated on these issues before I make my decision," Brosnan said.
Blakeman's campaign has run two television ads, including one accusing Scaturro of not being a true conservative. The ad cites Scaturro's work as a counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which was chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania, a Republican who in 2009 became a Democrat.
Scaturro, who has not run any ads, said he worked as a Republican aide for the Judiciary Committee and not for Specter directly.Scaturro noted that Blakeman also contributed to Specter before Specter became a Democrat.
Scaturro previously clerked for two federal judges and is a partner in the law firm of FisherBroyles, based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Scaturro, who was born in Manhattan and lives in New Hyde Park, says he wants to simplify the federal tax code, reduce the national debt and increase employment opportunities for 4th District residents.
As he campaigned door-to-door in Franklin Square last week, Scaturro discussed his plan to cut taxes and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Joe Pisciotta, a retired elevator mechanic and registered Republican, said Scaturro made a convincing argument.
"I may just vote for him," Pisciotta said outside his home on Garden City Avenue. "We need to lower taxes and to stop giving away our money to other countries."
But Denise Pugliese, a Republican who lives on Madison Avenue, said she's undecided and wants to hear more about the candidates' plans on taxes and immigration.
"We need someone who is going to keep taxes within reason," Pugliese said. "The cost of everything is going up."
Blakeman has raised $403,426 since the campaign began, including a $200,000 personal loan, and has $242,755 in cash on hand, Federal Election Commission records show.
Scaturro has raised $197,932, including a $40,000 personal loan, and has $77,528 in cash on hand.