October 18, 2006

Zanzi Challenges Bishop For Congress

The race for U.S. House of Representatives sees a two-term incumbent facing off against a political newcomer. Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop hopes that two weeks from now, constituents will send him back to Washington for a third term. Republican Italo Zanzi is looking to unseat the popular politician. A newcomer to the political arena, he believes he has a good shot at pulling off an upset.

Zanzi wears his lack of public experience with pride. Coming from the business community, he said, "I'm not conditioned to like bureaucracy." He believes there's an advantage to political inexperience. "As I've gone around the district, countless people say we need new blood and new energy."

Zanzi opined that it's a philosophical tradition in the Democratic Party to believe government knows what's best for voters. "I believe the people know what's best," he said. Speaking to The Independent, the challenger espoused support for a major overhaul in the way the federal government taxes and spends. He lambasted Bishop for voting to spend tax dollars on such items as an aquarium in Connecticut and a swimming pool in California. "There's no reason the federal government should use New York taxpayers' money for these things," he said, adding, "A lot of money at the federal level shouldn't be paid in taxes to the federal government in the first place." He opposes "senseless earmark spending."

Bishop has had four years "to walk the walk," Zanzi reminded, "And he's clearly failed. I will be an individual fighter that focuses on results."

A Port Jefferson-born attorney, Zanzi has a MBA as well. A vice president for Major League Baseball, he oversees business functions such as Hispanic marketing initiatives.

Political foes have accused Zanzi of pandering to anti-Latino sentiment. He recently visited the Mexican border and has lambasted Bishop's stance on immigration, characterizing him as a proponent of amnesty for illegal aliens. Zanzi has advocated for deportation of an undocumented immigrant found within arms reach of law enforcement.

Bishop has countered that Zanzi's approach is simply unrealistic. The nation lacks the resources to deport every illegal immigrant. But the path he favors is hardly instant amnesty. Instead, he supports a bipartisan bill that calls for a strict multi-year program of earned legalization.

Critics have attempted to paint Bishop with the brush of a partisan politician removed from the voters. Bishop said this week that his constituents know him to be "unbelievably accessible."

He's held over 100 town hall meetings in the district in the last three and a half years, as well as community office hours throughout the jurisdiction. At least 20 forums alone were held to help seniors understand new Medicare regulations. Additionally, Bishop has forged relationships with civic leaders and representatives from groups that run the gamut from seniors to volunteer firefighters.

As to criticism that implies partisan politicking, Bishop's office has adopted a "friend to all" policy with regard to working with local elected officials. He's earned the respect and maintains positive working relationships with officials on both sides of the political aisle locally. In fact, recently Pat Veccio, the Republican supervisor of the Town of Smithtown, has come out to endorse Bishop. "I am guided by the philosophy that the vast majority of people don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican," he said. "People are tired of partisanship. They want to see us working together on their behalf."

Bishop was at the head of the effort, standing with Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney, to protect the 106th Air National Guard Base. He was also among the first to come out against Broadwater Energy's plan to site a mammoth LNG facility off the coast of Wading River. Accomplishments range from fighting to restore funds for a regional shoreline study to saving the Junior ROTC program in Mattituck.

Speaking to the notion of congressional earmarks, and why he would vote for appropriations benefiting other states, Bishop said, "that's a remarkably naïve question." He'd vote for them for the same reason why counterparts from out of state would vote for appropriations that benefit Long Island and the East End alone. There's no question that earmarks are abused, Bishop said, but, "There's not a dime of the $95 million I have brought to this district that can't withstand scrutiny."

With the two signature characteristics of his two terms to date — constituent services and effectively delivering funds to the district — Bishop said, "I have done the job and if I may say so myself, I have done it very well.

Election Day is November 7.

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