ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS – Before Monday’s CD-5 debate began, host Kevin McCullough set forth an essential truth of the evening.
He reminded Republican contenders Nick DeGregorio and Frank Pallotta that the “enemy is Josh Gottheimer.”
If that was designed to persuade the candidates not to beat up on each other, it worked.
The debate at The Bicycle Club (that’s a restaurant) was a relatively peaceful affair. With the “enemy” looming five months or so in the distance, the candidates more or less avoided personal attacks and agreed on substantive issues. The debate was broadcast over AM970 radio where McCullough hosts a talk show.
Of course, over the hour-long show, there were some exceptions.
Experience is an issue.
Pallotta, an investment banker by profession and the GOP candidate against Gottheimer in 2020, says he has more real world experience than DeGregorio to deal with the pressing economic issues of the day.
DeGregorio said Pallotta’s notion that he (DeGregorio) is a “lightweight” is off-base, even offensive. DeGregorio is a marine combat veteran.
Pallotta said he intended no sleight of DeGregorio’s military service.
And then there were the actions of “the enemy.”
The Gottheimer campaign has spiced up the Republican contest with a mailing “critical” of Pallotta. It says Pallotta supports Donald Trump, not New Jersey.
Naturally, in a Republican primary, backing Trump can be seen as a good thing.
Pallotta reiterated at the debate that Gottheimer is coming after him because he (Pallotta) is going to win the primary.
DeGregorio scoffs at this interpretation. He says Gottheimer and “dark money” from Democrats are improperly trying to impact a Republican primary.
DeGregorio is endorsed by the Bergen County Republican Organization, which has been another issue.
Pallotta in recent days has released a number of text messages that he says prove that the county endorsement was up for sale. That percolating issue was not raised at the debate.
However, Pallotta did say that he is a “three county” candidate, referring to Sussex and Passaic counties, which make up part of the district. But the Bergen section is by far the largest.
There was agreement on many issues, abortion and guns among them.
Both candidates said they were pro-life and strong supporters of the Second Amendment. There is relevance here to be sure.
Not only was there the leaked draft of a possible pending opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, but the U.S. Supreme Court also will rule soon on a case out of New York state that could make it easier for the public to carry concealed weapons.
Supporting gun rights and opposing abortion are standard Republican positions, but they may be problematic for whoever survives the primary come the fall., The district now has about 57,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.
The first question was about President Biden’s comments on Monday that the United States would defend Taiwan if it is attacked by China.
Pallotta and DeGregorio each took swipes at Biden. No shock there.
Pallotta said he wishes the president would sometimes stop talking; DeGregorio called him weak.
However, both candidates then said it’s important for the United States to protect and support its allies, which is essentially what Biden said.