GOP hopefuls trade barbs at heated debate

Congressional candidates Stephen Labate (l.) and Grant Lally (r.) debate during a forum hosted by the Northeast Queens Republican Club last week. Photo by Kelsey Durham
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Two Republican candidates vying for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Great Neck) clashed repeatedly at a forum hosted last week by the Northeast Queens Republican Club as they debated issues such as healthcare and immigration.

After several weeks of battles involving a lawsuit and a police report, Stephen Labate and Grant Lally met for their first debate at the Clearview Golf Course in Bay Terrace and touched on some current political issues. Although the two men continued to take personal shots at each other and attack their opponent’s character, Lally and Labate agreed on the issues, for the most part.

The two contenders called one another liars and kept interrupting one another as they answered questions from the audience about their stands on political issues.

The primary that will decide the Republican candidate will take place June 24 for the district covering Nassau and Suffolk as well as the Queens neighborhoods of Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Little Neck and Douglaston.

While both candidates agreed that they would like to end Obamacare and fix security on the nation’s borders, the two men differed in their views on solutions to some of America’s problems.

Labate, a native of South Ozone Park, is a seasoned member of the U.S. Army Reserve who has been called to active duty three times since Sept. 11, 2001. Lally is a commercial lawyer who lives in Huntington, L.I. and said he was the only New York attorney to file briefs and appear before the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to defeat President Barack Obama’s U.S. Affordable Care Act.

Lally’s campaign website said he has secured the endorsements of the Conservative and Republican parties of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, while Labate recently announced he is being backed by the Combat Veterans for Congress political action committee.

When delivering his opening remarks at the May 21 forum, Labate said the existence of Obamacare has hindered the economy and said it was one of the “serious problems” America is facing today.

“The vast majority of people who it was supposed to help didn’t want it, and they still aren’t covered,” he said.

Lally agreed with his opponent’s objection to Obamacare and said it was one of the president’s policies that has “massively damaged” the country.

The two candidates also had a heated discussion about immigration reform and citizenship, and both men agreed that better security is needed on the country’s borders in order to combat the number of illegal immigrants who make their way into the states each year.

Labate argued that the nation has “totally lost control of our borders,” but said he is not in favor of using military troops as a way to beef up security.

“That’s a law enforcement mission,” he said “What the government should do is their job and stop leaning on soldiers for everything they can’t do right. Soldiers and their families have enough burden already.”

Lally said he also sees a problem with what he said was approximately 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States and argued that the first step to combatting the problem is to better secure the borders.

He also said he is not in favor of a process known as the “path to citizenship,” in which any illegal immigrants currently in the country can apply for citizenship by going to the back of the line to do so.

“If someone is here illegally, they should not be entitled to any citizenship,” Lally said. “We shouldn’t cheapen American citizenship by just giving it away.”

Lally and Labate did both say, however, that they are in favor of offering citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to America at a young age and served a full term honorably in any branch of the U.S. military.

“If you’re paying your dues with military service, I would support that legislation unequivoca­lly,” Labate said.

Lally and Labate are both hoping to face U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) in the November election to represent a unique district that includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk as well as the Queens neighborhoods of Whitestone, Little Neck and Douglaston.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at

Posted 12:00 am, May 30, 2014
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Reader feedback

Not open for debate from Queens says:
Someone here illegally is a criminal. This should not be open to debate. There are not too sides. Illegal is illegal. Someone forced to come here under age 13 can petition that he was forced to come here and should be treated the same way as those who were forcibly brought here by traffickers. But under no circumstances should their family members be eligible to come here just because they are now here legally.
Also, a problem I see first hand lately is that seniors with no means of support are being allowed in. They are scavenging through garbage and also using city services. Why are they let in? Your family is free to visit you, do not come here and use my tax dollars instead of those of your countrymen. And when you scavenge, you drop the garbage you do not want and it has to be cleaned up with my tax dollars.
May 30, 2014, 11:15 am
Jun Po from Douglaston says:
Where did this writer tagged as "Not open for debate from Queens" come from or how did he or she come to the United States? His or her English stinks: wrong grammar, intelligible sentences arranged incoherently, and saying non-sensical thoughts. You surely believe you are a real American or are you a fake American? Give me your A number and date of entry into the United States.
May 30, 2014, 6:57 pm
bobf from Whitestone says:
Wouldn't these Republican candidates have a much better chance of attracting politically independent, socially liberal Republicans, Tea Party supporters and anti-war Democrats who live in Whitestone to vote for them if they adopted Ron Paul's anti-war/anti-military interventions abroad/bring all U.S. troops home position and focused more on continued loss of affluence that most Whitestone residents have experienced under the Goldman Sachs-Wall Street-influenced Democratic Obama administration, since 2009? Check out how, historically, a Republican candidate named Fiorello LaGuardia was able to get elected to Congress in 1920s and early 1930s, for example.
June 5, 2014, 9:11 pm

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