GOPers ready for primary

By Kelsey Durham

As congressional candidates Stephen Labate and Grant Lally prepare to face off in a Republican primary next week, each hoping to unseat current U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), the two challengers have each focused their campaigns on similar issues, including the Affordable Care Act, small business and national security.

Labate, a South Ozone Park native who now lives in Deer Park, L.I., is vying with Huntington, L.I. resident Lally to win a spot on the Republican ticket in November. Lally is also running on the Conservative Party ticket.

Both candidates — running to represent a district that includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties along with the Queens neighborhoods of Little Neck, Douglaston, Bay Terrace and Whitestone — identified similar issues as their top priorities starting with repealing Obamacare.

Labate said reversing the passage of the “fundamentally flawed” legislation is his main goal and he believes if the act were to be repealed, some of the other issues he sees in his district would start to fix themselves.

“Obamacare is bringing down the economy because businesses can’t plan two years out,” Labate said. “The majority of folks who have it are in it because they lost what they previously had, because of Obamacare. The reality is that the worst is yet to come because businesses don’t know what the future holds.”

Lally, who prides himself on being the only attorney from New York to file briefs and appear before the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to take down Obamacare before it was passed, said he would like to see the act repealed in favor of a system that more closely resembles a free-market insurance exchange.

“We need to try and make the market as efficient as possible to create the maximum amount of coverage for the greatest number of people,” Lally said. “The free market is the best vehicle to do that because people will be in a position to competitively purchase health insurance and have the freedom to say ‘no’ or to find something that best meets the needs of their own family.”

By repealing the health care legislation, Labate said one of his other major concerns, the state of small business, would, in turn, begin to improve as a result. He said if he were elected to Congress, he would focus on lowering taxes and making it easier for small businesses to thrive.

“I’m a big free market guy,” said Labate, who has worked as a financial adviser for the past 15 years while also serving as an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve. “We need to get out of companies’ ways and go back to the principles of the 1980s, where the government wasn’t a big part of the problem in our economy. We need to lower taxes and encourage companies to hire more workers, especially on Long Island, where the middle class is basically extinct right now.”

Lally also described himself as being “pro-small business” and said he believes in the principles of small government with lower taxes and fewer regulations on businesses.

“I’m very much a free market conservative and I’ve represented hundreds of businesses and seen the gauntlet they have to go through to survive, and it’s given me an appreciation for the improvements we need to make in our economy,” Lally said. “We live in a very competitive world and we must take that into account if we want to grow and prosper and be the center of the economic world. We have to be competitive.”

Both candidates also agreed that immigration was a top concern, though the two men had differing views on how to address the issue.

Labate argues that securing the nation’s borders should come first, and coming up with a solution as to how to deal with the illegal immigrants will then be the next priority.

“It’s without reason that we have hundreds of thousands of illegal, undocumented aliens coming into this country, and we just can’t absorb that many people,” said Labate. “We’re the only country on the face of the earth that has a totally open border and we need to secure it. It’s very much a national security issue because we need to know who’s in this country right now.”

Lally said he favors what is known as a “blue card” system in which illegal residents already in the country have the chance to be offered an indefinitely renewable work and residency visa that would allow them to stay in the United States but not be given citizenship ahead of the people who have applied legally and waited for approval.

“That’s the program that previously received the most support from House Republicans,” said Lally, who said he worked on national immigration initiatives under the Bush administration from 2006-07.

Both Labate and Lally live on Long Island, but each candidate said they see the same issues hurting the Queens neighborhoods that are included in the district as they see in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

When voters hit the polls Tuesday, Labate and Lally each hope to come out on top and give Republican voters the best candidate to face Israel in November.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at [email protected].

More from Around New York