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Differences on display in debate between Rep. Tim Bishop and challenger, state Sen. Lee Zeldin

Tim Bishop, Democratic incumbent candidate for US Congress

Tim Bishop, Democratic incumbent candidate for US Congress New York 1st District, poses for a portrait at his office on Monday, August 25, 2014. Lee Zeldin, current New York State Senator (3rd District) and GOP primary candidate for Congress 1st District, poses for a portrait at his campaign office on May 9, 2014. Credit: James Escher

Rep. Tim Bishop and his GOP foe in the race for the 1st Congressional District, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, clashed repeatedly Wednesday night on everything from chopper flights over the East End to Obamacare and immigration during a standing room only debate in Riverhead.

"If you like the Obama, Pelosi, Bishop agenda, then he's your man," said Zeldin, a Republican two-term state lawmaker, adding that he would press to repeal Obamacare. He also said Bishop needs to be replaced to help end Washington dysfunction.

Bishop (D-Southampton), who supports Obamacare but acknowledged problems with its rollout, countered that Zeldin and Republicans tried to kill Obamacare 52 times, but have put forward no plan to replace it.

"In four years, there has been absolutely nothing," he said during the debate at Polish Hall.

The 12-year House veteran said Zeldin favors giving younger people the option of investing privately rather than paying into Social Security. Bishop said that idea would destroy the existing system. Zeldin called Bishop's claim "100 percent untrue," saying he has only raised it as a potential option during conversations.

The two men differed on immigration as well. Bishop said he favors a 15-year pathway to citizenship with fines and payment of back taxes while Zeldin said he could not favor any form of amnesty.

The candidates disagreed in other areas as well.

Zeldin said the federal government "dangled a carrot" of $700 million if New York imposed the Common Core academic standards, which he opposes.

Bishop said blame for Common Core and its "atrocious" implementation should fall to the state government of which Zeldin is a part.

"The only thing that makes Obamacare look good is the rollout of Common Core [in New York] . . . and that's on the state, not the federal government."

Zeldin accused Bishop of failing to "close the loophole" that allows helicopters to fly over parts of the East End rather than around Orient Point. Bishop maintained that he and Sen. Charles Schumer have made progress with the Federal Aviation Administration, which previously had no regulation of chopper flights and now has a offshore northern route and is considering one for the south shore.

The two men agreed that any travel into the United States from countries suffering from the Ebola epidemic should be barred unless those coming in undergo a full medical screening.

"Someone should not be allowed in by lying on a piece of paper," Zeldin said. Bishop agreed, saying travel should be banned until TSA can examine travelers "to the highest extent possible."

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