Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, of Southampton, and challenger Randy Altschuler, a St. James Republican businessman, met Monday in Hampton Bays for their second 2012 debate.
The candidates repeated many of the same answers they gave the previous night at a debate in Riverhead, but they also faced a new question from a student who was selected to represent her class at the Hampton Bays Civic Association event.
Hampton Bays High School senior Jennifer Linares, whose whole government and economics class attended the debate, was invited to the stage to pose a question to the candidates.
"Why are both of you running negative ads and sending negative fliers instead of concentrating on your own achievements and accomplishments?” the 17-year-old asked.
Bishop was first to answer, telling Linares it was an excellent question.
“I would be the first to say that the state of our politics has deteriorated dramatically just in the 10 years I have been in office,” Bishop said.
The five-term congressman said politicians find themselves engaged in a war of attacks rather than a positive campaign about their strengths.
“In an ideal world, we would not be running those kinds of ads,” Bishop said. He noted that it is not just candidates themselves that run negative advertising, but political action committees and Super PACs as well.
Altschuler said that when he entered politics during the 2010 congressional race, he was "surprised and disappointed" at the negativity.
Of this election cycle, he said, “Every time you turn out on your TV or go out to get the mail, it's about Randy being an outsourcer.”
Altschuler said he would rather discuss his 10-point jobs plan.
Both candidates have run attack ads, with Altschuler going after Bishop's congressional record, and Bishop criticizing Altschuler's business record as the former owner of an outsourcing firm.
Patch posed the question of what piecemeal solutions either candidate, if elected, could offer in 2013 in lieu of ever-elusive comprehensive immigration reform.
"I don't think we should have piecemeal solutions," Altschuler said. The problem, he said, is that politicians want to be the bearer of good news, while avoiding the larger and more difficult questions.
"We don’t want to deal with people using our schools and hospitals not paying into the system ..." he said, adding that he opposes amnesty. “It's not fair to anybody, and it's not fair to those who are here legally."
“It’s unfair to our society to not deal with this in a comprehensive way,” Altschuler said.
Bishop said there are a number of things Congress can do, and has tried to do, pointing to the DREAM Act, parts of which President Obama adopted in his recent order granting deportation relief to immigrants who entered the country illegally as children. He said it is a fix that will give dignity to people who came to the U.S. through no fault of their own.
Other solutions Congress can take on that he has advocated are visa reform, including both agricultural visas and seasonal unskilled labor visas — a big part of the eastern Long Island community, he said.
Bishop said he supports a path to "earned legalization," including keeping a clean record, paying a fine, paying taxes and learning English.
Altschuler accused his opponent of being ineffective on the issue. "Congressman Bishop has been on this for 10 years," he said.
The candidates met for their first debate of the election cycle on Sunday in Riverhead. Read about that debate here.