Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Democratic challenger Anna Throne-Holst traded attacks on funding the Environmental Protection Agency and gun control legislation in a News 12 Long Island debate Thursday.
Over 28 minutes of testy exchanges, Zeldin and Throne-Holst accused each other of not telling the truth.
“My opponent is lying,” Zeldin said of Throne-Holst’s allegation that he voted 28 times against a bill introduced by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) to prevent those on “no fly” terrorism watch lists from buying guns and explosives.
Throne-Holst said that even though the votes were on procedural motions to bring King’s bill forward for a vote, Zeldin should be held to account for them.
“The record is clear here who’s actually lying, Mr. Zeldin,” she said.
After the debate, which was recorded Thursday and will air Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Zeldin said the votes weren’t on the substance of the gun bill. Instead, he said they were forced by Democrats to produce political fodder against Republicans who voted against them. “This is a game played by the minority,” Zeldin said.
Zeldin, 36, is running for his first re-election after unseating former Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in 2014. He and Throne-Holst, 56, of Sag Harbor, are in the midst of a crowded schedule of debates and candidate forums ahead of Election Day, Nov. 8. The News 12 Long Island debate also will be available on News12.com and Optimum Channel 612.
Zeldin said Throne-Holst was running a “slash and burn campaign of negativity.”
Throne-Holst said “Washington is broken” and called Congress ineffective and dysfunctional.
On the energy issue, Throne-Holst said Zeldin “voted to defund the EPA.”
Her campaign pointed to Zeldin’s vote in 2015 for GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan’s budget, which would have cut the EPA budget by $718 million, and a vote in July for an unsuccessful measure that would have cut the EPA budget by $164 million compared with the previous year.
Zeldin said he never voted to defund the EPA. “My answer is to improve it, not eliminate it,” he said.
Zeldin said he supported repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, which he said “will collapse on its own in 2017.” He supported protecting those with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. He said he doesn’t support an individual mandate for health insurance.
Throne-Holst said that while the law, also known as Obamacare, “is not the way I would’ve written it,” it had succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured Americans. She said Congress should fix it by allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prescription drug costs and eliminating a tax on expensive “Cadillac” insurance plans.
Also, Zeldin and Throne-Holst said they supported term limits for members of Congress.
Both said they would accept the results of the presidential and congressional election. Republican candidate Donald Trump a day earlier had hedged on whether he’d concede the race at the third presidential debate.
“Always have, always will,” Zeldin said in response to moderator and News 12 anchor Stone Grissom’s question.
Throne-Holst called Trump’s wait-and-see answer “about as un-American as it gets.”
CLARIFICATION: A story on Oct. 21 was unclear about the contents of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 2016 budget proposal, which Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) voted for in March 2015. The budget set overall spending limits, which subsequently were used by a House committee that proposed cuts of $718 million to the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.