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Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler debate focuses on economy

Rep. Tim Bishop, left, and Randy Altschuler enter

Rep. Tim Bishop, left, and Randy Altschuler enter the debate hall at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue. (Oct. 12, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

The economy dominated the latest debate between Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican challenger, St. James businessman Randy Altschuler.

In remarks before dozens of people at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue last night, each criticized his opponent's ability to help Long Island recover from the recession.

Moderator Richard French, president of Regional News Network, steered questions from three journalists. Spencer Rumsey, senior editor at Long Island Press, asked the two if the federal tax code was too generous to the wealthy.

Altschuler replied that "the general tax code is a mess in general. At the end of the day, we're all better off with less taxes." He pledged to reduce taxes for the middle class, including extending former President George W. Bush's tax cuts.

Bishop retorted that, despite numerous tax cuts passed in the early 2000s, in 2008 the country experienced "the worst economic collapse that we have seen since the Great Depression." Bishop said the tax code needs to not only be "fair" and "progressive" but also charge greater levies on high earners.

In response, Altschuler said Bishop's opposition to tax cuts is "going to hit a lot of small businesses on Long Island."

Other topics such as undocumented workers came up, when Long Island Business News reporter John Callegari asked the candidates about their stance on immigration. Bishop said the system needs "comprehensive reform" including "stiffer border protection" and better visa procedures, but also a way for immigrants to earn legalization. Altschuler criticized Bishop's voting record on Homeland Security bills as proof of his lack of commitment to immigration reform.

Looking abroad, the candidates also answered a handful of foreign policy questions, including about the military drawdown in Afghanistan and Iran's potential nuclear power.

Bishop referred to Vice President Joe Biden's remarks in Thursday's debate that the American military will be out of Afghanistan by 2014.

"Our obligation is to get out," Bishop said. "We accomplished what we went to Afghanistan to do."

Last night's debate provided a rare opportunity for the two candidates to agree, as Altschuler said, "I also agree we should bring our troops home," but questioned Biden's timeline.

In closing, Bishop touted his record in Congress as one of compromise and bipartisanship. "I am very, very proud of my service. I am not a bomb thrower," he said. "I am a team player."

Altschuler said it was Bishop's very tenure that cried out for change.

"If we want to change Congress, if we want to ensure my generation passes this country on to the next generation in better shape than we found it, it doesn't make sense to me, sending people back to Washington who made the mess in the first place," he said.

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