PARAMUS – Josh Gottheimer started early.
In his opening statement at Thursday night’s League of Women Voters CD-5 debate, he blasted Republican Frank Pallotta for promoting subprime mortgages and supporting the Oath Keepers, a right wing group involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Pallotta responded in kind – eventually.
He used his closing statement to accuse Gottheimer of making $14 million “in what looks to be insider trading over the course of the last 16 months.”
Asked afterwards about Pallotta’s charge, Gottheimer (pictured, below) said:
“As reinforced in court testimony, Frank was literally one of the architects of the subprime mortgage crisis that forced millions of seniors and veterans out of their homes — and pushed our economy into a recession. Fraudster Frank has zero credibility, and the lies he told tonight just reiterated that.”
The congressman also says he turned his investments and retirement savings over to a third party, who has “full investment discretion.”
Pallotta is not backing down.
For one thing, he has denied promoting subprime mortgages. And he used his closing statement to ridicule the notion of a third party handling investments.
“A third party doesn’t do anything, you can talk to a third party,” Pallotta said, adding that a better idea would be to require all members of Congress to put their assets in a blind trust.
Make no mistake, this was an actual debate, not merely an exchange of accusations. Also on hand were Trevor James Ferrigno running under the Together We Stand banner and Louis Vellucci with the slogan American Values.
Vellucci talked more than once about protecting “this great planet, mother earth” and his desire to find peace with Russia and China.
Ferrigno’s presentation was a bit darker, alleging that, “The top level of our government had been infiltrated by people who despise what America stands for.” He did not identify the interlopers, but said they have to be stopped.
The Ciccone Theater at Bergen County Community College was pretty much filled and the crowd was enthusiastic, often applauding despite being admonished not to do so by the moderator.
Abortion is an issue – obviously.
Democrats, in fact, think it can motivate their base. Republicans prefer talking about inflation and the economy.
Gottheimer, like mostly all Democrats this cycle, is stressing his support for women’s reproductive rights. He said the overturning of Roe v. Wade already has meant grave consequences for women who have been denied health care. He criticized Pallotta (pictured, above) for calling abortion “manslaughter.”
Pallotta said he is a pro-life candidate who stands for the “sanctity of life.” But he said be believe in exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.
Gottheimer questioned that, saying Pallotta backs the Human Rights Amendment, which declares that life begins at conception.
Guns are another passionate issue.
Gottheimer backs banning semi-automatic weapons, which he called “weapons of war.” That prompted Pallotta to ridicule the term, cracking that Democrats use it because they don’t know what a semi-automatic weapon is.
Bringing the conversation around to a more substantive point, the congressman spoke of children – his included – needing to have active shooting drills in school. That should not happen in a civilized country.
Pallotta agreed that it should not happen, but he said the answer is not taking guns from law-abiding people. He said the problem is mental illness more than the presence of guns.
Gottheimer trumpeted this term’s passage of a modest gun control bill that offered states federal money to create “red flag” laws, which seek to take guns – temporarily in some cases – away from those who are mentally unstable.
Pallotta responded that he is not in favor of red flag laws.
As the hour or so debate ensued, Pallotta hammered Gottheimer over rising inflation and crime, denouncing “catch and release,”: or more officially, cashless bail.
Gottheimer stressed many of the accomplishments of the Democratic-Congress, among them the infrastructure bill, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and money to bolster the microchip industry.
He also reminded Pallotta that bail reform in New Jersey was championed by Republican Governor Chris Christie.
This is the second rodeo for Pallotta, who lost to Gottheimer two years ago. He probably has more name recognition this time around, but CD-5 has changed. It is now more
Democratic-leaning after losing parts of conservative northwest Jersey in exchange for eastern Bergen County.
Pallotta seemed to have more of the audience on his side, but whether that translates to voter support throughout the district remains to be seen.