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Oct 27, 2008 2:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Zeldin seeks 1st Congressional District seat held by Bishop

Oct 27, 2008 2:43 PM

Though he was a three-year member of the William Floyd High School youth and government program, Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for 1st District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, never thought he’d be seeking a career in politics.

“I was always intrigued by politics, but the only thing I knew was that I never wanted to go into politics,” said Mr. Zeldin, 28. “I thought politics was the worst of human nature, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.”

As time went on, he graduated with a law degree from the Albany Law School, and served as a legal advisor for the 82nd Airborne Division based in Tikrit, Iraq. He and his wife, Diana, endured complications during her first pregnancy, but she went on to have twin girls, Mikayla and Arianna, last September.

It was on train rides home from Manhattan to Shirley while he was a lawyer for the Port Authority in 2007 that he began to contemplate a run for public office.

“Over the course of a couple of years, I learned a lot of answers to questions I’d been asking myself over my life,” Mr. Zeldin said. “I knew I could serve in a legislature and be able to do it without compromising my stance on the issues.”

Mr. Zeldin, who is running against Democratic incumbent U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, departs from his opponent in areas including the Wall Street bailout and the war in Iraq, and he criticizes the incumbent on government taxation and spending.

Mr. Zeldin has assailed Mr. Bishop on issues ranging from his voting record—he alleges Mr. Bishop votes “along a liberal agenda virtually 100 percent of the time”—to his position on earmarks and his support of the military.

While this is his first run for public office, Mr. Zeldin believes he’ll do a better job of reducing taxes, strengthening national defense and bringing a fiscally conservative ideology to Washington.

“This is a right-of-center district with a liberal representative,” he said. Long Island residents “know they have a very liberal congressman who isn’t representing their interests in Washington,” he added.

On the economy, Mr. Zeldin opposed the $700 billion bailout package for Wall Street, concerned that it increases the national debt.

In order to help shore up the economy, Mr. Zeldin supports efforts to federally insure certain mortgage-backed securities, with the condition that banks restructure the mortgages to reflect accurate market values. He also supports legislation to have credit card companies refinance at lower interest rates in order to allow people to pay off their debts.

“We’ve got to stop writing these blank checks that we can’t cash. We’ve got to stop writing these big checks that are getting our nation further into debt,” Mr. Zeldin said. “We need to have people help themselves as much as possible rather than having the government do it for them.”

Cutting taxes is also a way to strengthen the economy, Mr. Zeldin said. The candidate believes suspending the corporate income tax and the capital gains tax will help flood the market with needed money. He also has called for an end to the alternative minimum tax, which he says is harming middle-class Long Islanders.

Suspending those taxes could free up money in the economy, thereby reducing the likelihood of future government bailouts of private corporations, he said. “Each dollar of private capital that you can put into Wall Street is one less dollar of public capital,” Mr. Zeldin said. “We need to inject more private capital.”

As an Iraq war veteran, Mr. Zeldin emphasized that his experience in the military will inform his tenure in public office. Military service “deepened my commitment to serve” the country, he said. “The flag was very colorful to me going into military service,” Mr. Zeldin said. “It’s even more colorful after serving.”

While conceding there have been flaws in the handling of the Iraq war, Mr. Zeldin believes the recent troop surge has worked in quelling insurgency. He believes that troops should be withdrawn, but he cautioned against a fixed timetable for withdrawal that could get all troops out of Iraq within 16 months, as called for by Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.

In any case, sending a message that “we shouldn’t have been there in the first place, we need to cut our losses,” is disastrous for America’s image in the Middle East, Mr. Zeldin said. “Our enemies over there respect strength—they don’t respect weakness,” he said. “While that may be a popular message for American voters, that message would absolutely be a catalyst to a strategic failure abroad.”

He believes a continued presence in the Middle East is necessary to continue the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He said military efforts need to be stepped up in Waziristan, a mountainous region of Pakistan on the Afghanistan border, which he said is more of a breeding ground for insurgency 
than Afghanistan. He said he would support special operation strikes against suspected terrorist targets in Waziristan.

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