If there was one fascinating moment during Wednesday night’s CD-11 debate between Jay Webber and Mikie Sherrill, it may have been when Webber suggested getting federal funding for the Gateway Tunnel would be a snap.
Yep, all he has to do is visit the White House and tell the president that “you have to treat New Jersey well.”
Michael Aron, the moderator for a debate televised on NJTV, seemed a bit incredulous.
He ruefully noted that Rodney Frelinghuysen, the district’s current congressman and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has been unable to do that.
Webber remained confident, saying he’s a leader who knows how to get things done. And as was pointed out later in the debate, President Trump has tweeted his support for Webber.
Sherrill, who has made support for the tunnel a key part of her campaign, refrained from commenting on Webber’s perhaps over-the-top confidence, a missed opportunity to be sure.
That moment aside, the debate was contentious, but not overly so.
There was disagreement, but no raised voices or cheap shots.
Both candidates also avoided any attempt at humor. That was a shame. A well-placed quip can do wonders to make candidates seem more like the people they are vying to serve. Frankly, both Webber and Sherrill would do well to loosen up a bit.
The candidates were given a chance to ask a question of each other.
That’s always fun.
Webber sought to pin Sherrill down on Bob Menendez, who he again – incorrectly – called her running mate. The Republican clearly wants Sherrill to disassociate herself from the ethically-challenged Menendez.
She didn’t take the bait. Sherrill said ethics are important, but that she would vote for Menendez, not Republican Bob Hugin. Clearly, it’s hard for Sherrill to condemn a fellow Democrat.
When it was Sherrill’s turn, she asked Webber about his past opposition to gay marriage and his support for gay conversion therapy, a dubious practice that centers on therapists trying to “cure” individuals of their homosexuality.
Webber said it’s not the government’s role to prevent people from dealing with the therapists they want. He also used the question to make a larger point, that being that Sherrill is looking backward while he is looking ahead.
A lot of that is pure semantics. A candidate’s record and views are always part of a campaign, and if that is construed as looking backward, so be it.
Issues already raised were digested again.
Sherrill reiterated her opposition to the recent federal tax cuts as unfair to New Jersey. Webber said they have spurred the economy.
This produced an icy exchange.
Sherrill noted that notwithstanding the roaring economy, the Dow Jones average dropped more than 800 points on Wednesday.
Webber expressed shock that she was “cheering” a stock market drop.
Sherrill quickly retorted that she was merely stating a fact and that she was cheering nothing.
Webber said Sherrill wants a “Medicare for all” plan, which he has lambasted as a “socialized medicine scheme.” But Webber supports Medicare as it is now and even put together a TV ad with his father to make the point.
Sherrill said she does not support Medicare for all, but missed a golden opportunity to point out that Medicare itself is socialized medicine.
An interesting foreign policy question was which country poses the greatest threat to the United States.
Webber picked China.
Sherrill, who has foreign policy experience through time spent in the military, said she didn’t want to pick one country. She did mention China, Russia and Iran.
Social Security has been called the “third rail” of politics and both candidates stumbled over a question about keeping the program solvent years from now.
The question was whether the retirement age, which is either 66 or 67 depending on when you were born, should be raised. With life expectancy increasing, many economists say this step is an absolute must.
Not with these candidates.
Sherrill said simply she opposed raising the age while Webber talked about balancing the budget, a worthy goal, but not something that would directly impact the longevity of Social Security.
As long as there were no obvious screw-ups – and there weren’t – that depends (as it just about always does) on the guy or gal you supported before the fun began.
Stay tuned. There’s another debate Thursday night in Wayne.