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Zeldin speech to conservative group stresses principle

New York State Sen. Lee Zeldin, a Republican

New York State Sen. Lee Zeldin, a Republican of Shirley, addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, March 8, 2014, in National Harbor, Md. Credit: Evelyn Hockstein

State Sen. Lee Zeldin, one of two Republicans seeking to challenge Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in November, told an audience of conservative activists from around the nation Saturday that Republicans must vote with "political courage," even if it means losing the next election.

Zeldin (R-Shirley) spoke on the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington, calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, an end to Common Core education standards, enhanced U.S. support for Israel and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

"We cannot change Washington unless we change some of the people we send there to represent us," said Zeldin, 34, in a speech that touched on his Army service in Iraq and the 2006 birth of his twin daughters, only 25 weeks into his wife Diana's pregnancy. "What's more important than your re-election are the people who elected you to serve in the first place," he said.

The American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual conference, designated Zeldin, a second-term state senator, one of its 10 "Rising Conservative Stars."

Among the speakers at this year's convention were many prospective 2016 GOP presidential contenders, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.Bishop spent Saturday meeting with constituents in Mount Sinai and Hauppauge, campaign spokesman Keith Davies said.

"If Lee wants to spend his day talking with his fellow tea party extremists, that's his business," Davies said.

Zeldin challenged Bishop, 63, for the 1st District seat in 2008 and lost by 16 percentage points.

Zeldin, who has the backing of state and federal party leaders, faces a GOP primary in June against former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos, 37.

On Friday, Demos, of Stony Brook, was endorsed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

He previously received the backing of former New York Gov. George Pataki.

"George Demos is a fiscal conservative who says what he believes and believes what he says," Giuliani said.

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