Congressional candidate Stephen Labate spoke to members of the Glen Cove Republican Club at Wednesday night, telling his audience he is a 'grassroots candidate' who got into politics after following the national healthcare debate.
Labate is running against incumbent Steve Israel, D-Huntington, for the Third Congressional District seat.
Labate shared laughs with attendees as he discussed his Italian-American ancestry and costly medical bills after a strep throat infection hit his whole family - including the dog.
Health care is his central issue of concern, Labate said, with the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act his prime target and the motivation for his campaign's beginnings.
"The legislation is one of the greatest intrusions on our liberties as American people we have ever seen," he said. "I began speaking out, and people told me I should run."
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Labate said he initially dismissed the idea, already busy as an active member of the U.S. Army Reserves in addition to his job as a retirement counselor at Prudential. After consulting with family and close friends, he began his bid 16 months ago.
"It's been an amazing journey since then. We've propelled this cause and came out on top against others who wanted to run against Representative Israel," he said.
Labate said the national healthcare issue drew him into politics out of a "concern for the future of the country."
While conceding that the current healthcare system is 'imperfect,' Labate said that the law has major implications regarding jobs and the economy, which he contended is already overregulated.
The Supreme Court is set to rule on the legislation in June. If it is upheld, Labate said he would work in the House, if elected, to repeal it.
Labate also expressed concern over national security and highlighted his 24 years in the Reserves, with time spent as a Second Lieutenant and having served in Iraq and at the Pentagon.
"We shouldn't be surrendering our military to the degree that, due to budget cuts in the next two years, our Army will be as small is it was back in 1940," he said. "We're a country that's threatened every single day."
Labate said he is confident he can win his race. The nomination process was complicated by this year's , which put him in the same district as Congressman Peter King, R-Seaford. A Deer Park native, Labate said he plans to move his within Third District lines if elected.
"I might be relatively unknown to this district, but so is Mr. Israel in two-thirds of the district. I believe I can win this election," Labate said.
The campaign's Glen Cove coordinator, , said he is confident in Labate's ability.
"His extensive experience in financial services and his impressive military record bring the type of leadership we need in this community," he said.