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Tim Bishop, Lee Zeldin have testy debate on economy, guns, immigration and beaches

Candidates for congress, incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop, left,

Candidates for congress, incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop, left, and challenger State Sen. Lee Zeldin, are shown prior to their debate at the News12 Long Island studio in Woodbury on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

With only a week of campaigning left, Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop and his GOP foe, State Sen. Lee Zeldin, had some of their testiest exchanges yet Monday night battling over the economy, guns and Long Island beaches.

"Fiscal insanity and dysfunction plaguing our nation's Capitol . . . is totally unacceptable to me," Zeldin said. "We cannot elect the same congressman over and over and over again and expect a better result." Zeldin also said he would work to cut regulation and help small businesses create good paying jobs. "I have yet to hear one idea . . . [from Bishop] where he would help small business," he said.

Bishop countered: "If you want someone who gives aid and comfort to the banks, he's your guy." He added, "If you want someone focused on students and others getting their piece of the American pie," voters should pick him, referring to a legislative proposal to permit refinancing of college debt down to 3.8 percent.

The candidates clashed in an hourlong debate held at Stony Brook University's Staller Center that was aired by FIOS.

Among their differences, Zeldin, of Shirley, wants to repeal Obamacare because some have lost doctors and are paying more. He opposes the minimum wage increase to $10.10 because he says it hurts small business. Bishop, of Southampton, favors the wage hike to help spur the economy and says the Affordable Care Act may need fixes but added that Zeldin has offered no alternative for the 13 million people now getting coverage.

When asked whether he supports universal background checks for gun buyers, Bishop said, "Not just yes, but hell yes." He said even 70 percent of National Rifle Association members back the proposal, and opposing the expanded background checks is "outrageously irresponsible."

Zeldin has opposed the expansion, saying there already is legislation requiring checks and "you can't infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens" under the Second Amendment to bear arms.

Bishop also said he favors a 15-year earned pathway to citizenship with penalties and back taxes for the 13 million undocumented immigrants already in this country, a compromise bipartisan proposal approved 68-32 by the U.S. Senate. The House has taken no action on the bill.

Zeldin said he opposes amnesty and that the bill with more than 1,000 provisons is too big, adding that his priority is increased border security.

Zeldin also criticized Bishop for the slow pace of restoration of Long Island beaches, noting work on the Jersey Shore, Brooklyn and Staten Island that's already been completed, while progress locally, he said, has been painfully slow in Suffolk.

"We should be getting millions of cubic yards of sand and instead we get thousands," Zeldin said. "Put away the sound bites and just deliver."

Bishop countered that the $700 million Fire Island-to-Montauk project is much larger than other local projects and had been tied up in a lawsuit brought by the Audubon Society. He said the order to block the project has been lifted and work will begin in November.

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