Suffolk Times Endorsements: Who we think you should vote for

Tim Bishop-web

For U.S. House of Representatives: Tim Bishop

Lee Zeldin has been decrying partisan discord in Washington throughout his most recent campaign for Congress.

“Republicans and Democrats, when they share power, have to be willing to sit down at the table to find common ground to move our country forward,” he said at the Riverhead debate. He has insisted he will bring a spirit of compromise and bipartisanship to Capitol Hill. Based on his positions on the major issues of the day, however, we find that impossible to believe.

On immigration, Mr. Zeldin said in Riverhead he’s against anything that offers a path to citizenship for people living in the country illegally, a position that puts him to the right of Republican leaders like John McCain and Marco Rubio. While we respect Mr. Zeldin’s opinion and his stance on the issue — and we know many agree with him — he should own that stance and not pretend that he’s going to Washington to be a conciliator.

He signed the controversial Grover Norquist pledge that says he’ll never raise taxes. Of course, the pledge will put him in a tough spot when it comes time to sit at the table with Democrats and other Republicans to solve a projected $514 billion deficit. Even Long Island’s most recognizable congressman, Republican Peter King of Seaford, disavowed the pledge in 2012 as outdated and a tool that prevents legislative compromise.

On “Obamacare,” Mr. Zeldin’s is the tired old song of most other House Republicans: that he’ll “repeal and replace,” yet magically keep all the good stuff that people like, such as companies not being able to deny coverage or charge more for people with pre-existing conditions. Of course, those components of the law are made possible only because the individual mandate broadens the insurance pool to include more healthy participants. A true compromiser would be proposing fixes and other tweaks to the flawed statute, not fantasies designed to rally those who associate it with a president they unconditionally despise.

As for the incumbent, Mr. Bishop has been a congressman during both less and more productive years on Capitol Hill, so it’s hard to pin any dysfunction on him. He’s never pretended to be something he’s not, a left-leaning Democrat, but he prides himself on constituent services and not ideological pursuits. Mr. Zeldin’s camp calls him a “back seater” and criticizes him for not getting many bills made into law, and that’s fair. But perhaps because of that, his focus remains largely on the everyday problems of those people living in the 1st Congressional District, not the national party or national politics. You won’t see Mr. Bishop making the rounds on CNN or Fox News, but at the same time, you won’t see him embarrassing us with speeches and props on CSPAN, either. From his work securing federal stimulus money for alternative transportation in Riverhead Town, to getting Mattituck Inlet dredged while improving safety and navigability in that area, to helping keep jobs at Brookhaven National Lab, Mr. Bishop has been a successful fighter for the district, even in a House now controlled by Republicans.

Unlike Mr. Bishop, we don’t blame all of Washington’s problems on tea partyers. In part, those outspoken conservatives who have fought against government spending over the past six years have helped trim the deficit from $1.4 trillion in 2009. Still, it was the increased revenues, which came only through great compromise between Democrats and Republicans, that have contributed more to reducing the deficit.

The tea party’s no-compromise stand on large and looming issues doesn’t bode well for the future. And it appears Mr. Zeldin stands with them. Meanwhile, Mr. Bishop has been elected six times in a Republican-majority district. That’s because he’s a reasonable man, politically, and he addresses the unique problems of his constituents. Voters of all stripes have recognized and rewarded that effort.

We see little reason why he doesn’t deserve another two years in office.