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Hundreds Pack First Bishop/Altschuler Debate

The First Baptist Church of Riverhead was crowded with community leaders, local clergy, and scores of residents for the first congressional debate of the election season.

Debate season started off with with a full house on Sunday, as hundreds filled the First Baptist Church of Riverhead for the first faceoff this election cycle between incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop and his second-time challenger, Randy Altschuler.

Cynthia Liggon, an assistant pastor of the church, began the debate — hosted by the Long Island Organizing Network, a coalition of faith-based, community and labor organizations — with prayer, asking that words be seasoned "with grace and thoughfulness as we seek a common good for all humanity."

Moderated by journalist Joye Brown, candidates answered questions that had been determined before the event on topics ranging from immigration and health care to the national economy. From the outset, the dialogue was, for the most part, civilized, with no mention of outsourcing or ethics, questions that have sparked heated exchange in political ads placed by the candidates.

The debate began with a question about Suffolk County farmers and fishermen. Since, often, those jobs are held by immigrants, candidates were asked how constituents could expect them to vote on immigration policy, and what impact it would have on small business owners.

Also, both were asked about President Obama's new deferred action program, which grants deportation relief to and enables them to be legally able to work.

"Farmers and fishermen are a key part of the economy on Long Island," Altschuler said, adding that he spoke with both groups while creating his 10-point job plan.

"Immigration is a critical issue," Altschuler said. "We need to fix immigration policy." He said what's needed is a comprehensive policy that defends U.S. borders. He added that while he is compassionate to young people brought to the country as children, he supports a policy that "doesn't reward folks that are here illegally."

"Tim Bishop and I have two different positions," Altschuler said. "He supports blanket amnesty."

Altschuler believes Bishop supports giving benefits and tuition to undocumented workers, something he said he can't support when others "have played by the rules."

Bishop responded to what he said was Altschuler's "misinformation;" he said that he has never supported giving driver's licenses and tuition to undocumented immigants.

"What I do support is comprehensive immigration reform," he said, adding that a path to earned legalization is a stance he's supported for 10 years. 

The path to earned legalization, he said, would mean undocumented immigrants would have to pay fines, pay back taxes, learn English and civics and get a green card after 10 to 12 years. 

"It's not amnesty," Bishop said. He added that the new deferred action program allow young people to "rise out of the shadows" and not be subject to deportation. "If that was amnesty, you would have to presume they've committed a crime. A 2-year-old is not capable of committing a crime." 

But, Bishop added, comprehensive immigration reform is critical: "Over 60 percent of farm workers on Long Island are undocumented. That speaks to a broken system."

"With all due respect, it's been 10 years and we still don't have a comprehensive immigration policy," Altschuler said. "If we elect him, nothing's going to change."

Bishop countered that the "one and only" reason why comprehensive reform has not been passed is the intransigence of the Republican party and the "insistence in calling anything that changes the status quo amnesty." The congressman added he has tried to "work across the aisle" and a bipartisan approach is needed. "We have to find common ground."

Another question centered on health care, and whether or not candidates were in favor of repealing Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and if they supported a privatized voucher system.

Bishop, who voted for the Affordable Care Act, said he believes it to be "a very important step on the path to the kind of reform we need in this country for a system that simply isn't working and isn't affordable. The status quo is unsustainable."

Altschuler's position to repeal the act, Bishop said, will hurt seniors and college-aged kids who are now able to stay on their parents' policies, as well as those with pre-existing conditions who would otherwise be shut out of a health insurance policy. Bishop said. Those who found themselves faced with voucher system, he continued, could only "hope" the plan covered their medication. 

Instead, Bishop she he supports a plan that solidified Medicare and keeps the program intact for individuals who have been paying into the system for over 35 years. 

The current health care system, said Altschuler, whose wife is a doctor, is broken, with "sky high" premiums and a "bloated program" that does not fix the problems. Physicians who have to pay $175,000 a year in malpractice are leaving Long Island, he said, because they cannot afford to practice. Altschuler blasted Bishop for supporting $700 billion in cuts to Medicare. "The only way we are going to solve the problem is to fix it," Altschuler said.

Bishop said Altschuler's comments were laced with "so many distortions," he wasn't sure where to start. He quoted President Bill Clinton who, discussing Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, said "it takes some brass" to criticize something they, themselves, support. Ryan's proposed budget "goes one step further and increases the $700 billion to $900 billion."

Altschuler said it has been three years since Congress passed a budget. Ryan's plan, he said, "is the only plan. Right now, there are no alternatives." Of the Affordable Care Act, he said, "A 2,000-page bill filled with new taxes isn't going to solve problems."

A plan put forth by the Democrats was voted down, Bishop said; he added that any family earning less than $200,000 — 98 percent of the American public — would not have to bear tax increases by the Affordable Care Act.

Discussing the environment, Altschuler said his electronics recycling company is environmentally conscious. He said waterways are important on the East End and dredging in the Mattituck Inlet a critical issue.

"The environment is the economy is the First Congressional District," Bishop said, pointing out three important pieces of legistation he took the lead on to benefit local estuaries, the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay and discussing his lead sponsorship on a wastewater infrastructure bill that would bring federal dollars to local communities to deal with runoff and waste. Bishop added all four inlets have been dredged on the East End during his tenure.

Sewers, Altschuler countered, are needed. "Where have they been?" Southold Town, he added, "is on the verge of suing the government" over Mattituck dredging.

Bishop said although his colleagues voted for zero funding for such projects, he voted against them and in support of dredging and other local issues.

When asked what budget both candidates supported moving forward, Bishop said, of Ryan's proposed plan, "If it were ever to take on the force of law it would impose enormous pain."

Ryan's proposed budget, he said, eliminates Medicare in favor of a voucher program, cut food stamps by $8 billion and college Pell grants for students by $105 billion, and could leave many who work in schools and colleges around Long Island jobless, as less students could afford to attend. "Everything we do in this country has to be about jobs," Bishop said.

The congressman said he supported the Democrative alternative, "a balanced approach."

Altschuler, meanwhile, responded: "What kind of budget do I support? I support a budget." He noted that Congress hasn't passed a budget in two years, and homeowners have to pass personal budgets every year. If elected, he said. "The first thing I will do is make sure nobody gets paid in Congress until we get a budget."

A mounting $16 trillion national deficit needs to be tackled, Altschuler added. "This debt is a real problem," he said, pointing out that the second largest country the United States is indebted to is China, a "very dangerous situation." At some point, Altschuler said, the government won't be able to print money to pay debt. "That's the irresponsible legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren."

Anyone who states that they can reduce the deficit with no new revenue, Bishop said, is "delusional."

Altschuler said he is not delusional and said while the current financial situation is shared by Republicans and Democrats, he has been working in the private sector trying to grow the economy while Bishop has been in office. "We need people to change our course," he said.

Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which says no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state, was also discussed: Altschuler said while he supports the concept of marriage meaning a union between one man and one woman, he believes it is a decision that should be made at the state level.

Bishop. in a heartfelt moment, said his daughter is gay. "I couldn't possibly love her more, or want her to have every right and every protection," he said, adding that he co-sponsored the legislation to repeal the act. In the house of God, Bishop said emotionally, "I believe my daughter and her wife are both children of God. They are acting on who God made them to be. We should be a country that is sufficiently loving and tolerant."

Other questions involved voter fraud suppression and making it mandatory to show identification before voting. Altschuler said identification is used everywhere and is not too much to ask. Bishop said voter fraud is a widely held misconception and the requirement of identification would most hurt the poor and elderly, who could not afford to obtain valid ID. Alschuler said the goal would be to offer programs to provide identification. 

Bishop, however, thinks the initiative is politically motivated, with most of the poor and seniors who could not afford ID being Democrats, and said voting is an intrinsic right. "This is outrageous," he said. "People died in this country for the right to vote."

Campaign finances were also discussed; Altschuler believes term limits should be imposed. "Congress is like the roach motel," he said." They check in and never check out."

Bishop said the current state of campaign finances "imperils our democracy and makes races up for sale."

Altschuler said Bishop has received donations from political action groups; Bishop countered that those donations are highly regulated, unlike private investors who can write a $30 million check. Bishop supported the Disclose Act, which would have required supporters giving donations more than $10,000 to be disclosed.

During closing statements, Bishop pointed to more than 15,000 personal instances when he has helped constituents in Riverhead and across the East End, such as when he worked to bring the federal government to the table to garner funding for flood-ravaged Horton Avenue residents. Political service, he said, should mean "bringing people to the table as a force for good."

Altschuler pointed to his children and to having grown up with a struggling single mom as motivation for his race. Unemployment and property taxes across the East End are rising, he said, with Social Security and Medicare in "dire straits" and a $16 trillion deficit that means every American owes $50,000. 

Altschuler pointed to the Riverhead McDonald's employee working extra shifts to try and save her family home and to small business owners on the North Fork trying to set up show. "The only way we are going to make a change is by changing our congressman," Altschuler said.

Bishop said he has approached his time in office with "honesty, integrity, and seriousness. It's what you deserve. I hope with your good grace I will continue to have that opportunity."

Jaguar-Guy September 24, 2012 at 05:46 PM
No Senators should be paid until they pass a Budget. No Congressman should have lifetime healthcare (the best in the world at taxpayer expense) and pensions for one or two terms. They should have the SAME healthcare we all have now - Obamacare. They voted for it, so they should swim in the same waters as we will have to. Oh, and no government employees should be paid wages if they owe the government money (IRS). Close those loopholes and you're really talking.
George McKnight September 24, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Hazel you deleted your post to me but I will answer it anyway, again the bill went back to committee until they can find a way to pay for it. My issue is why Mr Bishop has not been disturbed by the 30 JOBS bills already passed by the House and not addressed by the Senate. Where is his outrage about that. Where is his outrage about not working within a budget for more then 3 years. Where is his outrage about NO SHOVEL READY JOBS. So Hazel I have no problem with the TRUTH and I will listen to it any time Mr Bishop wants to put it out there. Until then I will point out any BS that I see.
Sam Mays September 24, 2012 at 07:19 PM
No Elizabeth, my oma and opa grew up in Germany and my father and I speak perfect German. You are wrong, it means "old student", I'll give you an A for effort though.
Sam Mays September 24, 2012 at 07:23 PM
What has Tim Bishop actually done for Long Island in the last 10 years? I would like an answer. And no don't say helping a millionare Hamptonite with fireworks permits for his sons bar mitzfah. http://www.citizensforethics.org/mostcorrupt/entry/tim-bishop
Hazel Wilkonson the First September 24, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I did NOT delete my post, but I will state it again. MR BISHOP is a representative. JOHN BOEHNER, the republican leader of the house SENT THE ENTIRE HOUSE on a SEVEN WEEK vacation until the elections are over. The DEMOCRATS asked the speaker to stay in session, he REFUSED. What would you like Mr. Bishop to do about the Senate? Why don't you ask Mitch McConnell what HE THINKS about the senate obstruction? After all it is he who said his MAIN GOAL WAS TO DEFEAT THE PRESIDENT. Your accusations are child, filled with simplistic teabaggery and attacking the WRONG FREAKING GUY
Hazel Wilkonson the First September 24, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Just because you met Brendan means you are one single person? You would love to marginalize all those opposed to you by saying it is one person, but, I got news for you, although you and your alternate egos speak the loudest, you are still nothing more than a minority of crazies known as the teaparty. Accept your fringe status and move on.
John K Massaro September 24, 2012 at 08:40 PM
George, with all due respect. As the owner of a local business, do you think it wise to be so biased towards one side & accusational towards another when it very well could cost you numerous customers? Because I could tell you right now, despite your views, you've definetly turned me off from ever wanting to deal with you or your office. Not that I have a problem with your opinions but your insulting ways are a turn-off. I, for one, expect much more professionalism from a business owner...
George McKnight September 24, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I would like Mr. Bishop to not mislead us, the bill in question could not get passed because it didn't have any funding and he made it out to look like the Republicans killed the bill which they DID NOT. As for the Senate, I just asked Mr. Bishop where is his outrage that 30 other JOBS bills that I'm sure he knows about and may have even voted for are, which had funding. The Truth is Mr. Bishop tried to make a talking point and again got caught not given the real facts. As for your post maybe Mr. Bishop knows where it went.
George Lynch September 24, 2012 at 08:47 PM
You will find the answer to that question in my letter that appears in the current (9/20) Southampton Press and East Hampton Press, naming 14 very specific documented things that Tim Bishop has done recently for Long Island, things like getting funding for the dredging of Shinnecock Inlet and Montauk Harbor, securing FEMA money for flooded Riverhead homeowners, saving 1,000 jobs at Brookhaven National Lab, getting the Army Engineers to shore up beaches at Mastic-Shirley, fighting to keep FAA air controller jobs on Long Island, obtaining federal support for building the Greenbelt Trail in Port Jefferson Station, and keeping the federal payroll tax cut in effect through 2012 to save the average Suffolk family $1300. There's more, but I'm not typing it all over again. Check it out.
Billy J September 24, 2012 at 08:55 PM
He provided jobs for 13 ppl. Unfortunately for us, they were all his relatives. But he was also integral in getting healthcare reform passed. Unfortunately for us that has raised rates and included a new massive tax that will hit the middle class very hard next year. Tim has been a big part of Obama's immigration plan of providing amnesty against the wishes of his constituents. Unfortunately for us that has resulted in overcrowding hospitals, falling school test results and has otherwise crippled the normal institutions that otherwise use our tax dollars to serve taxpayers. Tim just recently voted AGAINST HR6213 nicknamed the ''No Solyndra Bill'', which no thanks to our guy. Unfortunately for us, it shows that Tim is more than willing to engage in money laundering which entails the government doling out millions upon millions to fraudulent front shell companies like Solyndra that was never an ongoing concern to begin with. The owners of these companies take the tax payer dollars and ''donate'' it to the democratic party. That is what you call institutionalized congressional money laundering and Tim voted against stopping it just on9/14 a week from last Friday. Take a guess how Tim voted on HR828 the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2012" Yup, you guessed it, he voted against accountability. HR6169 on 8/2/12 "Pathway to Job Creation through a Simpler, Fairer Tax Code Act of 2012 "? You guessed right again, he voted against that too. He's done enough.
Billy J September 24, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Thanks Jag, but John is right. I need to do better. That was an old one.
Sam Mays September 24, 2012 at 08:57 PM
George, you fail to mention the jobs that have been "created". Since he's been in Congress, us on LI, including several family members, have lost their jobs and are moving away to the Carolina's. And as for dredging, ask the good folks of the North Fork if they have had the same treatment from Tim Bishop when it comes to that issue. He has continually ignored the North Fork while pandering to his wealthy Hamptons donors since he's been in Congress. It's time for Bishop to go. http://www.citizensforethics.org/mostcorrupt/entry/tim-bishop
Billy J September 24, 2012 at 08:58 PM
christie nicolle: every time you post on the patch a cute little puppy somewhere dies.
Billy J September 24, 2012 at 09:20 PM
George, do you know that ''getting funding'' means asking an assistant to send a fax? In the meantime, you should mention that extending a bush era payroll tax cut is a positive thing to your national party representative. Is being in power at the time that a project that was started in the 1960s really a resume builder?
Mary Beth September 24, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I know one agent that will never get my listing
Argile September 24, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Sorry Hazeltroll. I'm me. The one and only. Anytime you want to meet up to debate I'd be more than happy to meet up at the Smithtown library. So whenever you get off from work at McDonalds and your parents can drive you let me know. I've made this offer on more than one occasion but never any takers. But that's expected of cowards behind a computer.
Jaguar-Guy September 25, 2012 at 12:54 AM
They complain about there not being any voter fraud. Well, I'm sure if you count one person, one vote - Mitt Romney won the Patch Poll for President by a landslide. Unethical allowing more than one name - shame on you Patch !! If you correct me and state nobody comments under multiple listings I will believe you. But writing styles and repetitive topics are easy to spot here especially when they read like Iambic Pentamiter.
GLENN September 25, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Many of the "fake" people on here have multiple accounts. So obvious, they think they are so slick....please!
Walter S September 25, 2012 at 02:19 AM
With the country in the debt that it's in, things need to change. The debt IS the reason there are no jobs. This has been on Tim's watch and nothing seems to change. Just give away the tax dollars to whoever asks for it. I know of a number of couples who have children together yet they are not married nor do they have any intention of marrying because of the government handouts they receive as a result of them not being married. The husbands work making a good salary while the wife collects food stamps, medicare and free schooling all on the taxpayer dime while it all can be afforded on the husbands salary. If they married they would not receive these taxpayer funded handouts because the one salary is substantial yet they get away with it because of the laws our lawmakers have enacted. It is not fair to those of us who have played by the rules, moral rules. It is lawmakers like Tim Bishop that have enabled people to take advantage and get away with it legally for votes while our country has slipped so far in debt we will probably never recover.
Walter S September 25, 2012 at 02:20 AM
continued.... And Sam, people are not moving to the Carolina's, they are just registering their cars there to save money on fees and insurance. I have people in my neighborhood who have had their cars registered in those states but have lived here in NY for many years. I have as much as 2 out of 3 cars with those plates here in my neighborhood. If the state went after these people everyone's fee's would go down. Another case of our government enabling people to do the wrong thing at the expense of others.
Justin Time September 25, 2012 at 10:25 AM
You can have as many "jobs plans" as you like, but won't do a speck of good if our overpaid "educators" cant produce the product!
ARice September 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Romney's Bain Capital invested PRIVATE MONEY in: AMC Entertainment Burger King Burlington Coat Factory Clear Channel Communications Domino's Pizza Dunkin' Donuts Guitar Center The Sports Authority Staples Toys "R" Us Warner Music Group Obama invested TAXPAYER MONEY in: Solyndra - BANKRUPT Ener 1 - BANKRUPT Beacon Power - BANKRUPT Abound Solar - BANKRUPT Amonix Solar - BANKRUPT Spectra Watt - BANKRUPT Eastern Energy - BANKRUPT All of these companies were Obama campaign contributors. The Choice is CLEAR...Do you want a BUSINESSMAN who has GENERATED BILLIONS or A President who has WASTED TRILLIONS?
Preliator September 25, 2012 at 10:47 AM
Look the writing is on the wall, Tim Bishop had his time in Congress and a chance to do some good and he blew it. Instead he abused his office for his own advancement, extorted money from constituents and used campaign funds to prop up a member of his family. The time for change has come, the time for a new face and new ideas. Vote for Randy Altschuler for Congress and let's start putting people back to work.
Argile September 25, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Just lost another RN to North Carolina. The educated middle class just continues to vacate Long Island. Thanks Mr. Bishop!
Mary Piazza September 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM
A great solution to the growing illegals in this country is...if you entered this country illegally you should have to serve at least 4yrs in the military being deployed. Get our kids home on our soil. I am a Army mom and deal with the extreme dangers facing our military overseas.
Preliator September 25, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Tim Bishop does not care, he'll get his pension no matter how crappy a job he does. Tim Bishop will get his awesome healthcare package no matter how high the debt goes. Tim Bishop will have a life of comfort and ease no matter how many Americans lose their jobs, lose their homes and lose hope. Tim Bishop, just another fat cat corrupt political hack getting by on the backs of hard working Americans.
James Pollard September 25, 2012 at 03:32 PM
UNFUNDED BISHOP/OBAMA Health Care. Tim Bishop and Obama promised that Obamacare would cut family health insurance premiums by $2,500 by the end of the first term--but instead they have risen by $3,000, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study cited by Investor’s Business Daily. The cost of health insurance today is more than 50% higher than Obama promised it would be--and the costs are expected to continue to rise as Obamacare is impemented. John Merline of Investor's Business Daily notes the rising costs specifically contradict a campaign promise Obama reiterated several times, including in debates with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and at events along the 2008 campaign trail. Furthermore, the data show that the rise in family premium costs, largely attributable to the costs of complying with Obamacare, has outpaced the rise in costs under eight years of George W. Bush. Health insurance companies have already been required to provide additional coverage for so-called “children” up to age 26, among other changes. That coverage is described by Obama as “free,” but in fact the costs are borne by other patients. Obamacare also does nothing to change the underlying incentives driving the rising costs of health care, and in fact makes them worse by adding mandates and reducing patients’ choices.
James Pollard September 25, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Cont: the next four years, if Obama is re-elected and Obamacare is not repealed, the federal government will have to apply cost controls, resulting in the rationing of health care by bureaucrats and/or hospitals. That is why the Obama administration placed such a heavy emphasis on the Independent Payments Advisory Board--and why vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has spent so much time attacking it. Regardless, the central promise of Obamacare--that it would “bend the cost curve down,” not just overall but on a family level--has been broken, as critics said it would be. The question “are you better off than you were four years ago” is answered with a clear “no” for American families when it comes to health insurance prices--along with rising gas prices and declining household wealth. Four more years will likely be even worse.
jim polichak October 02, 2012 at 01:32 PM
The truth of the matter is that a new congressman has very little influence in DC until he's been there at least 10 years and has gotten some seniority and is chair of a few subcommittees. Anyone who thinks that Randy is going to do anything but support the Republican party line in congress is sadly mistaken. He can talk all he wants about his job plans (etc.) but once he's elected the people who have been there longer make all the disscisions. The same goes for Tim Bishop! Once he's been there for several terms they'll start to listen to him.
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