Suffolk Times Endorsements: Obama, Bishop, LaValle, Losquadro

11/05/2012 8:00 AM |

For President: Barack Obama

A given during presidential campaigns is that candidates never fail to tell the electorate that their choice will be one of historic magnitude. This time Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are not just using rhetorical embroidery to fire up their bases but are speaking the truth.

It’s possible that the 2012 election could be closer than 2000, when the Supreme Court had to decide it. Some projections — not all crackpot — caution this November may be such an Electoral College squeaker that Congress will be called on to pick the president. Heaven help us all.

This election is a crossroads, an opportunity to continue slow but steady economic growth away from a financial collapse. It’s a choice between continuing a sure-handed, compassionate and strong foreign policy or reverting to a strategy that resulted in pointless, expensive wars while reducing America’s prestige to hollow chest-beating.

Mr. Romney has many admirable qualities and successes, not least his prosperous business career. But a cautionary note: The last three presidents from the world of business were Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.

Early in the campaign, President Obama and his staff were inexplicably quiet about his many accomplishments, preferring to instead cast a negative image of Mr. Romney.

But the president’s very real accomplishments include Obamacare, a historic achievement securing insurance for tens of millions of Americans that allows children up to age 26 access to their parents’ plans, bans insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and will rein in out-of-control costs.

The president’s stewardship of the economy has been sound, with unemployment dropping and housing starting to move up along with consumer confidence and a robust stock market. At the edge of the cliff in 2009, the president spearheaded a bold stimulus that saved and created jobs, rescued the American auto industry and began to build a road out of the catastrophic Bush era.

The president has done his duty as commander-in-chief, keeping the nation safe. He’s ended the Iraq war and ordered America out of Afghanistan. With his secretary of state, a person universally respected, he’s negotiated the tricky shoals of the Middle East with great skill.

Mr. Romney has proven to be a political weather vane, and that cynicism toward American voters is disheartening.

President Obama has proven to be a strong, sensible and farsighted leader who deserves to be re-elected.

 

For U.S. House of Representatives: Tim Bishop

Two years ago Tim Bishop won one of the closest congressional elections in the country. The court fight stretched into December before the Southampton Democrat’s victory over Republican Randy Altschuler, a successful businessman making his first run for public office, was certified by a scant 263 votes. But the razor-thin margin of victory didn’t really tell the whole story. That election, the first midterm vote of the Obama presidency, was not kind to Democrats.

On the national level the GOP wrested away control of the House of Representatives and came oh-so-close to taking the Senate. Through all that, though, Mr. Bishop held on to become the longest-serving eastern Suffolk congressman since Riverhead’s Otis Pike, who held the office for 18 years before retiring in 1978.

He did that by laboring long and hard for a district — encompassing a slice of Smithtown, most of Brookhaven and all five East End towns — that by voter registration is heavily Republican.

Mr. Altschuler, on the other hand, has virtually no connection to eastern Suffolk beyond moving into the district’s westernmost area in 2007 when his wife opened a local medical practice. That, we believe, is the most damning aspect of his bid to skip the political minor leagues, such as the county and state Legislatures, and jump right to a far more prestigious seat in the House of Representatives.

More damning even than his hypocritical campaign message on the need to create local jobs when his claim to fame is creating a company that outsources jobs overseas. True, he also launched a separate company with the laudable mission of recycling electronic parts, but those jobs are in Georgia, and we can’t help but wonder why Mr. Altschuler didn’t seek a congressional seat in the Peach State.

Mr. Altschuler’s campaign is indeed all about him. We can’t help but think that his four-year drive for a House seat, during which he spent over $2 million of his own money on the 2010 race alone, is about fulfilling his personal ambitions and that standing up for this unique area as one of 435 members of a bitterly partisan group is at best secondary.

The nature of Tim Bishop’s 2010 victory made headlines, but a closer look at that election shows his surviving the tea party tsunami was far from a political anomaly. There’s only one explanation for that: Tim Bishop gets the job done, and for 10 years now voters have consistently recognized and rewarded that effort. He deserves another two years and he gets our endorsement without hesitation.

 

New York State Senate: Kenneth LaValle

Longtime Republican Senator Ken LaValle’s challenger this go-around, Bridget Fleming, has a résumé that indicates she would be an effective voice in Albany.

Ms. Fleming, now a matrimonial lawyer in Sag Harbor, led a unit in the Manhattan DA’s office that prosecuted fraud in public assistance programs such as welfare, public housing and Medicaid, and before that, she prosecuted sex crimes.

She’s in the right to go after Mr. LaValle’s office spending, which at $510,598.26 is the highest among Albany lawmakers. (Democrat Richard Gottfried of Manhattan comes in second at $488,359.44.) Mr. LaValle blames the figures on having to move offices, but we don’t buy it; being top spender is a dubious distinction.

We hope Mr. LaValle, if re-elected, takes measures to keep his spending in check. It makes him look arrogant and is a poor reflection on us, the district.

Despite her strong points, the big problem for Ms. Fleming is that replacing such an elder legislator in the Senate majority, which looks out for Long Island’s interests, with a freshman Democratic lawmaker who will likely be in the minority does not benefit the region. We all saw what happened when the Democrats controlled the Senate for a short while (read: MTA payroll tax) just a few years back.

Ms. Fleming has asserted that the city-centric Democrats have “learned their lesson” and would back her votes that support the interests of her suburban constituents over city residents. But that simply would not hold true if she indeed found herself as a swing vote on key legislation. While we hate to put party politics over the individual candidate, the real world gets in the way. And the Republicans’ Senate majority is too valuable to the North Fork and all of Long Island to risk losing.

Mr. LaValle can point to individual accomplishments that tinker with the system here and there, but he says he’s running on jobs, taxes and education. Last we checked, jobs are scant for young people on the North Fork, we pay some of the highest taxes in the region and school districts are reeling as state aid to school districts becomes less and less of the overall budget pie.

True, these are issues much bigger than Mr. LaValle in many ways, but it does show how vulnerable he should be.

But he’s not vulnerable. As the longtime chairman of the Senate committee on higher education, he’s bolstered educational institutions in the district like Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University. Expansion and improvement at SBU helps create regional jobs and bolsters health care services, as well as providing top-notch educational opportunities for East End residents that are not too far away. He’s engaged with our agricultural communities and promises progress at the Enterprise Park at Calverton if he’s re-elected.

We can’t pass up the muscle he brings to Albany and we endorse him for the First Senatorial District seat.

New York State Assembly: Dan Losquadro

First-term Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) is running virtually unopposed, as Democratic nominee Nicholas Deegan’s campaign has been nonexistent save for a showing at a Mattituck Chamber of Commerce event in Mr. Deegan’s own hometown.

According to Newsday, Mr. Deegan ignored requests from its editorial board to show for a candidate interview.

That’s a shame, because putting up a fight with the chance of getting a North Fork representative in the Assembly majority would be beneficial to the region, and Mr. Deegan’s work as a Mattituck Parks District commissioner has been admirable (though a recent issue over whether or not he swore an oath of office has him off the board).

It’s hard to imagine Mr. Losquadro, a freshman lawmaker, would be a lock against a viable candidate, as the former Suffolk County legislative minority leader’s first two years in office have been underwhelming. Real leadership — not mere lip service — on issues such as helicopter noise or state-versus-local jurisdiction over vineyard activities would aid his constituents on the North Fork.

After he’s re-elected, Mr. Losquadro’s biggest challenge will be to help push proposed legislation that would create a state commission to oversee and fast-track development proposals at EPCAL.

Senator Ken LaValle introduced the same legislation and was able to pass the bill in the state Senate this past session. If Mr. Losqaudro accomplishes this feat, it will be a huge feather in his cap — especially if the Calverton Enteprise Park becomes the economic generator everyone in the region is hoping for. But Mr. Losquadro will undoubtedly need help from longtime Assemblyman Fred Theile (I-Sag Harbor), who caucuses with the Democrats.

Here’s hoping partisanship in the Democratic-controlled Assembly doesn’t block progress, even if it boosts a Republican’s career.