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Sep 30, 2008 1:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Campaign Diary

Sep 30, 2008 1:13 PM

Iraq War veteran and underdog Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District is calling in the heavy artillery in his campaign to oust incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

Lee Zeldin of Shirley received a significant monetary boost to his bid for Congress on Saturday at a fund-raiser held in Noyac that was to feature former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. With more than 150 supporters showing up to meet the mayor at $250 a pop, or $400 a couple, the event took in close to $50,000 for Mr. Zeldin, according to campaign chairman Bill Fries.

Unfortunately, for Mr. Zeldin, the man of the hour did not show because bad weather that delayed the former mayor’s return from the first presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi, the night before. Had he arrived as scheduled, Mr. Zeldin would have likely raised even more funds as photo ops with the former mayor were offered for $1,000.

Congressman Bishop said he wasn’t surprised the former mayor was a big draw for Mr. Zeldin. “Mayor Giuliani is a huge figure,” Congressman Bishop said. “I suspect his endorsement is a big help.” However, the congressman also pointed out that the three Republican opponents that he defeated to win his congressional seat were also endorsed by Mayor Giuliani.

Despite the light rain and overcast skies on Saturday, the spirit of those in attendance was not dampened, even when they heard the news of Mayor Giuliani’s flight troubles. To make up for his absence, Mr. Zeldin announced that the former mayor would hold a “free event” in the coming weeks for everyone who had showed up on Saturday.

The majority of Mr. Zeldin’s supporters remained at the event to hear their candidate speak after he was introduced by conservative radio personality Andrew Wilkow. Mr. Zeldin said having the support of “America’s Mayor” was a huge confidence builder and that over the last few weeks he has noticed a momentum shift in the race. “We have a lot more veterans on board as well as women,” Mr. Zeldin said, adding that the national enthusiasm for vice-presidential nominee Governor Sarah Palin has trickled down. “There’s definitely been an increase in attention to our campaign.”

Though under 30 and new to politics, Mr. Zeldin hopes that his military service will compensate for his inexperience in office and help him to unseat Mr. Bishop who seems to enjoy solid support and financing. Mr. Zeldin also hopes to capitalize on what seems to be a rising “anti-incumbent” and “anti-Washington” sentiment.

While expressing confidence in his reelection effort, Congressman Bishop said he wasn’t resting easy. “I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I’m taking this race very seriously.”

Mr. Zeldin also commented on a tightening in the presidential race and what he sees as a change in the national landscape that does not favor Democrats as much as it did earlier on in the campaign season. “The tide’s definitely turning,” he said.

Congressman Bishop disagreed with his rival’s take on the political climate and said Democrats hold an edge over the GOP especially in light of the current economic crisis. “The best way to work hard at getting reelected is to work hard at my job, which is what I’m doing,” the congressman said.

Debate Season

Mr. Bishop will face his rival in a debate on October 16 at the Hampton Bays Senior Center on Ponquogue Avenue. The debate is co-sponsored by The Southampton Press and the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons. Joy Lupoletti, of the League, will moderate, and The Press will provide questions for the debate.

Moving closer to Election Day, November 4, the debate season will also feature two debates, featuring candidates for the State Senate, State Assembly, and Southampton Town Board, with five-minute statements from the candidates for Southampton Town Justice.

The first of those debates will be held on October 23 at the Bridgehampton School on Montauk Highway. Joseph P. Shaw, the executive editor of The Southampton Press, will moderate. The second debate will take place on October 30 at the Hampton Bays Senior Center and will be moderated by Southampton Press Western Edition Editor Frank Costanza.

State Senator Ken LaValle, who is running unopposed, will make a five-minute statement at both debates.

The debates for the State Assembly will pit Republican incumbent Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. against opponent Democrat Michael Pitcher.

In the Town Board debates, Republican Town Councilman Dan Russo, who was appointed to the board in February, will face Democrat Sally Pope, a mediation attorney from Remsenburg.

Councilman Russo and Ms. Pope will also take part in a “meet the candidates” night on Friday, October 3, at the Phillips Avenue School in Riverside at 7:30. That event is sponsored by the Bay View Pines Civic Association.

In the race for Southampton Town Justice, incumbent Town Justice Republican Thomas DeMayo is facing Democrat Andrea Schiavoni, a mediation attorney from North Haven.

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