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Deja vu all over again for Jay Webber?
Maybe. A big issue in last year’s District 11 congressional campaign was Webber’s opposition in the Assembly to a bill mandating equal pay for equal work. While Webber explained his vote, it seems pretty certain his “no’ vote contributed to his defeat by now-congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. In the very least, it didn’t help him.
Now it’s another year and another election with Webber seeking to keep his Assembly seat in the 26th District, which spans parts of Morris. Essex and Passaic counties. And the “equal pay” issue has returned.
Laura Fortgang, one of the two Democratic candidates in the district, just slammed Webber for saying he supports equal pay for women. Fortgang is zeroing in on a reported Webber campaign piece that includes the following:
“Jay is a small business owner who supports equal pay for equal work and stands up for women who have suffered discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. His own business emphasizes flexible schedules and professional development for all of its employees.”
Fortgang sees this as pure hypocrisy, noting that Webber “notoriously” opposed the 2018 equal pay law, which was named after Diane B. Allen, a onetime Republican legislator from south Jersey. She said the law does not just protect women, adding that, “it guarantees equal pay for equal work for all New Jersey workers who are the victims of wage theft and wage discrimination every day.”
She also accused Webber of trying to deceive and mislead voters by saying he backs equal pay for women.
Webber’s response to all this covers two areas – one is factual, the other is political.
First the facts. Webber’s view on the Diane B. Allen act is that it was unneeded, given the fact current law already bans employment discrimination against women. Going back to last year, he also contended that the law was flawed because it could lead to frivolous lawsuits and unnecessarily burden businesses.
More generally, Webber takes credit for helping to increase funding and support for women’s services. “including women who are victims of domestic abuse.”
It was frequently mentioned last year that Webber was only one of two “no” votes on the bill; the other coming from one of his ideological soulmates in the Assembly, Michael P. Carroll.
But that’s not the whole story. The bill in question first came before the Legislature in 2016. It passed, but then-Gov. Christie conditionally vetoed it. More relevantly, 20 Republicans in the Assembly, including four women, either voted no or abstained, This information suggests that a “no” vote on the bill was not an outrageous act, but a mainstream Republican position. In what seems like simple politics in action, most Republicans voted yes two years later when Allen’s name was attached to the legislation.
Now, we move to the pure politics.
Webber’s statement characterized Fortgang as a “far left political protester,” which presumably is worse than merely being a far left individual. At any rate, Webber continued, accusing Fortgang of making baseless attacks in an “attempt to distract from her far left agenda,”
There are others in the race here, including incumbent Republican Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce and Democrat Christine Clarke.
But it kind of looks like the main event is going to be Webber vs. Fortgang.