The early chatter about the upcoming race for the 1st District seat in the House of Representatives was that the incumbent, Tim Bishop of Southampton, was going to face a strong challenge. The Republicans tapped a 28-year-old challenger, Lee Zeldin, a graduate of William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, who has had a distinguished military career that includes active duty in Iraq in 2006. The talk was that money would flow from Washington, D.C., as GOP leaders saw a chance to take back a seat from a vulnerable Democrat.
It’s early, but the huge influx of cash from the nation’s capital has not yet materialized, and it’s starting to seem that talk of a close race could be wishful thinking in GOP circles, especially in a district where the incumbent won reelection last time with more than 61 percent of the vote.
One clue: The GOP is going to the same playbook in an effort to unseat Mr. Bishop. The last time, in 2006, they chose a young (32 at the time), dashing candidate named Italo Zanzi, and his campaign was a mix of bashing the incumbent on immigration reform and pledging to rein in “earmarks,” or the “pork” a legislator can bring home to his district.
This time around, the face is different but the strategy is much the same. The youthful Mr. Zeldin’s service in Iraq provides a boost in stature, and his time in the military assisting border control agents in Arizona would appear to give him some insight into the issue.
Otherwise, the GOP has not changed tactics. Mr. Zeldin is launching an early, and shrill, campaign that seeks once again to tap the region’s simmering tensions involving illegal immigration. He also attacks “pork,” saying last month that Mr. Bishop and others use the money to “cater to donors, pander to voters, and buy votes,” as one political website, Nassau GOP Watch, reported. But, as the site notes, less than two weeks later he was pledging to obtain federal funding for a countywide sewer system.
The GOP has been less than honorable in past races involving Mr. Bishop—he won office by ousting Republican incumbent Felix Grucci in a 2002 race that Reason magazine has labeled one of the 10 dirtiest in U.S. history, owing to Mr. Grucci’s tactics. So far, there’s no reason to think they are ready to change strategies. Which seems odd, because there’s no reason to think that particular play will gain any more yardage in 2008.