LD26 Flashpoint: Democratic Challenger Fortgang Takes Affordability Fight to Webber’s GOP

PARSIPPANY – An Assembly candidate in the 26th District told supporters at a house party Thursday night that New Jersey is in a “crisis of affordability.”

The candidate added that she’s alarmed young people with college degrees often have no choice but to live with their parents and that seniors have to move because taxes are so high.

This is kind of standard stuff for Morris County Republicans, but the speaker on this night was Laura Fortgang. She’s a Democrat.

Fortgang, who lives in Verona, is seeking to oust GOP incumbents Jay Webber and Bettylou DeCroce in a district that covers eastern Morris, western Essex and one town in Passaic, West Milford. The other Democratic candidate is Christine Clarke of Jefferson.

Webber is the guy with the target on his back. Democrats in general and Mikie Sherrill in particular spent millions last fall portraying him as too right wing for northern New Jersey. It worked. Sherrill won the open congressional seat in the 11th District by a surprisingly comfortable margin.

So you can expect many of the attacks against Webber last year, such as his vote in opposition to equal pay for women, to resurface.

But apparently not yet.

Fortgang’s only mention of Webber and DeCroce was to say the incumbents will be well funded.

Instead, she talked about what’s wrong with New Jersey and why it needs to be fixed. She said many people have good jobs in New Jersey, but to reach them, they must traverse an “archaic” transportation system.

It’s common for challengers in a race to condemn the current state of affairs, but the balancing act here is that Democrats now control all aspects of state government. So isn’t some of these problems their fault?

Perhaps not totally. Democrats, for instance, can – and they do – blame former Gov. Christie for the woes of New Jersey Transit.

As for the overall issue of “affordability,” Fortgang spoke of the need for better investment in education, transportation and the health care system.

She also touched on “gridlock” in Trenton, which primarily revolves around a split between the Democratic governor and Democratic legislative leaders.

Fortgang, who is a business consultant and author, acknowledged the problem and said after her brief address that it is time for Democrats to “play nice with each other.”

A challenge for Fortgang and all Democratic candidates this year is maintaining the interest and excitement that flipped four House seats last fall.

Fortgang, optimistically, doesn’t see that as a major concern.

“This race is just as sexy as 2018,” she said.

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