Post Game: The CD-3 Debate Between MacArthur and Kim

Many politicians traverse twisting paths to attain the office they have, but for Tom MacArthur, the Republican congressman from the 3rd District in southern New Jersey, the road was more twisting than
usual.

As MacArthur fought for his political life in Wednesday night’s debate, I thought back to New Year’s Day 2014. MacArthur was just finishing his term as mayor of Randolph Township in Morris County.

Annual reorganization meetings are always filled with over-the-top mutual admiration.

Everyone did a great job. Everyone will do a great job in the future.

You hear a lot of that.

Still, it was surprising to hear his soon-to-be former council colleagues wish MacArthur luck in his new political venture – running for Congress in the 3rd District.

It seemed so incongruous. A guy from Randolph was simply going to run for Congress in the other end of the state?

Of course, what I did not know then is that MacArthur’s affluence allowed him to do just that. For the very fortunate, one supposes, moving is not that much of a financial challenge.

I can’t imagine MacArthur thinks that much about Randolph these days.

Then again he may long for the peaceful time he spent governing what historically has been one of Morris County’s best-run towns.

After all, there’s nothing peaceful about a hotly-contested race for Congress.

As an incumbent, MacArthur theoretically has the advantage. But not in practice.

Democrat Andy Kim has had MacArthur playing defense and it all has to do with Donald Trump. MacArthur was the only New Jersey representative in Congress to support the federal tax package, which caps the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000. He also was a key proponent of an Obamacare repeal that was rejected.

Both those issues were discussed Wednesday night and MacArthur acquitted himself well.

Yes, capping the so-called SALT deduction is not ideal, but the overall tax plan is good for the country.

“I see something that is going to grow the economy,” is how MacArthur put it.

On health care, MacArthur’s “advantage” in this debate was an odd one.

He noted that the Obamacare replacement bill he authored never became law.

Kim said that was a good thing.

Barring obvious gaffes or incredibly stupid statements, of which there were none, it’s always hard to pick a winner in a debate. People generally favor the candidate they favored before the debate began.

Still, MacArthur, as one would expect from an incumbent, seemed more at ease than Kim and more poised.

In one of the few testy moments, MacArthur accused Kim of “puffing his resume” in regard to his work with the federal government as a national security advisor.

Kim’s comeback was that MacArthur doesn’t really understand how the national security component of government works.

The 3rd District is now seen as one of the key races in the country.

That in itself is remarkable, because it had been considered solidly Republican. Polls give Kim a slight lead, but it remains within the margin of error.

MacArthur is very much in step with President Trump. For instance, he said he’s willing to give Trump’s tariffs a chance.

Tariffs, of course, stand Republican economic theory on its head, but MacArthur wouldn’t go there. Kim could have pointed that out, but for some reason he did not.

Kim’s answer probably doesn’t matter.

MacArthur is the incumbent and he backs the president, generally speaking, on a variety of issues, everything from taxes to tariffs to health care. That’s what the election seems to be about – a referendum
on Trump.

And just to complete the circle, or if you will, MacArthur’s political journey, Republicans this year are in a tough battle in Randolph as well.

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One response to “Post Game: The CD-3 Debate Between MacArthur and Kim”

  1. If this was supposed to be an article about the debate last night it failed. There was little of substance here. It could have been written without even attending, watching or listening to the debate.

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