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EDITORIAL: Newsday's endorsement in the 5th Congressional District

Democrat Gary Ackerman is running for a remarkable 15th term representing New York's hugely diverse 5th congressional district covering northeastern Queens and such upper Nassau County communities as Great Neck and Port Washington.

Ackerman is a fairly traditional New York liberal who backed President Barack Obama's health-care reform bill. He supports abortion rights, marital equality for gays and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He's made a specialty of international issues as vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and head of its Middle East and South Asia subcommittee.

His challenger, James Milano, is a 43-year-old physician from Oyster Bay. Although he lives outside the district, his candidacy is allowed by law. He's also a registered Democrat, although running on the Republican line. He advocates a flat tax and extending Bush-era tax cuts. He embraces citizenship for illegal immigrants already here. He would bar federal funds for abortion. And he favors an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, calling the wars pointless and expensive. He opposes gay marriage. Milano is thoughtful, energetic and independent-minded, qualities that make him stand out in a field of me-too Republicans.

But Ackerman, 68, has served his district well for many years and (unlike his opponent) has lived in it for decades. He's right on the issues, too. He favors the progressive income tax, and co-sponsored the Dream Act, a proposal to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants who were brought here as children. He says the Bush tax cuts should expire except for taxpayers making $250,000 or more ("I would go up to $400,000," he adds). Ackerman has worked hard at constituent services - important given that, in his district, half the residents are foreign-born.

Newsday endorses Ackerman. hN