Rep. Josh Gottheimer Jousts with Mark Quick at Blairstown Diner ‘Town Hall’

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack reports on a recent informal town hall held by Rep. Josh Gottheimer at the Blairstown Diner in Warren County, where he spoke with constituents about impeachment, immigration, gun control and other topics.

BLAIRSTOWN – Josh Gottheimer takes some heat for not holding official “town halls.” He says visiting diners and talking to patrons is just as beneficial.

And at least for Thursday afternoon, he was right. The opinions offered at what the Fifth District congressman calls, “Cup of Joe with Josh” town halls were as wide ranging as any structured setting.

Crammed into the Blairstown Diner, a cozy place in rural Warren County, were left wingers wanting to impeach the president, an NRA member with a pro-Donald Trump baseball cap. a man who seemed to blame all of society’s ills on “illegal aliens,” and people who simply wanted to raise specific concerns with the congressman.

It was near the end of Gottheimer’s hour-long visit that impeachment was raised. The questioner and her friends, some of whom were from the more liberal Bergen County part of the district, were pro-impeachment,

Gottheimer is not.  He said he prefers letting the courts handle the matter. By that, he means Congress using its subpoena power to access records and compel the unwilling to testify. He said the first goal of Congress is “to get answers.”

In contrast, a few tables away was at least one Democrat, or former Democrat, who told Gottheimer the party was drifting, or perhaps careening, too far left. That was Jerome Rubin of Randolph, which actually is out of the district. Rubin put his concerns on a sheet of paper and handed it to the congressman.

Rubin had written that Democrats were becoming anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and pro-socialist.

“They’re certainly not my views,”‘ Gottheimer replied.

Joining the conversation, perhaps to Gottheimer’s regret, was Mark Quick, of Hardyston, who has run unsuccessfully for local political office.

Quick, who said he may enter next year’s GOP congressional primary in the Fifth District, raised a number of questions and then proceeded to answer his own questions.

If jobs are short in New Jersey, it’s the fault of “illegal aliens.” Ditto for problems with health care, the opioid crisis and education spending.

In the face of this, others at the table grew a bit impatient, but Gottheimer kept his cool. He said he would be willing to further discuss things with Quick, but added. “I deal with facts.” That may limit any conversation.

In comparison, the congressman probably found the NRA booster easier to take,  even if they disagreed. The NRA member said he didn’t support so-called red flag laws that would take guns away from those mentally unfit to have them. His concern was that he didn’t trust the people making that diagnosis. As a point of fact, the president has offered general support for red flag laws.

The official reason for the diner visits is not to entertain extremists, but to answer important and sometimes mundane questions from constituents. This visit was officially geared to seniors and Gottheimer stressed the work he’s doing to lower drug prices and to crackdown on scams targeting the elderly.

One group of residents complained about a lack of public transportation in Warren and Sussex counties, a common lament.

“This transportation (problem), I’ve been working a lot on,”  the congressman said.

One glimmer of hope is the Lackawanna Cutoff, the historic name for a project that would provide passenger rail service from eastern Pennsylvania through northwest New Jersey and points east. We may see that in five years, Gottheimer said.

Maybe. Keep in mind that the proposal has been around for at least 30 years.

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  • L Eric

    If Martz and Greyhound wanted it…it would have run years ago. The Lackwanna Cut Off that is. The Lackawanna RR paid taxes and passenger paid taxes on tickets. The money was used to improve roads and local airports!

    • Chuck Walsh

      Martz and Greyhound? They will have nothing to say about the Cut-Off. And you just don’t switch funding from rail to roads like you say. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • L Eric

        Yes million dollar bus companies are going to sit by and watch competition develop to their businesses. The bus station in Scranton used to be across the street from the Lackawanna Station! When the bus company owned it and paid real estate taxes and other costs. They use the publicly owned station now down the street. But the EL is gone. They know how to use the government on all levels.

        • L Eric

          Bus and trucking companies were at the hearings in favor of getting the trains off. I was there at the Federal Building in Chicago.

          • Chuck Walsh

            Time will tell.

  • Dave Marain

    Fred, Ut is not LEFT-WING to be calling for Impeachment. It is supported by well over 100 Dems in the House and the current investigations by the House Judicial Committee have been identified by Nadler and others as an Impeachment inquiry. As much as I would like my Congressman to call it an Impeachment inquiry I can’t expect that while the Speaker of The House is avoiding the use of that terminology.

    I was also hoping to hear more about his recent visit to detention camps at the border but I only got a vague response to my question. .However I was somewhat pleased that Congressman Gottheimer did sign on to a letter to Pelosi and McConnell identifying the national threat posed by White Nationalistm and urging the Senate to convene and pass the bill calling for universal background checks and
    banning assault-style weapons.

  • Joey

    Concerning Gottheimer’s comment on the Lackawanna and the possibility of seeing it in 5 years – I think that is certainly do-able to Andover even though I feel it could be done in much less. The combination of NJT running the show and various other issues have already delayed the project since it started 8 years ago. If he is speaking of the entire 28 miles being done in that time-frame… its a pipe dream. The concerned citizens are correct that Sussex and Warren need mass-transit alternatives to our congested highways. I wish I could have been at the diner to meet and speak with Josh on the subject.

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