June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Four Democratic Hopefuls Bring it On, Booker in Lead

JLBC has interviewed all four Democratic candidates who are running in the special primary on August 13. While Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s interview does not appear in the paper because his interview clashed with our deadline, his story by reporter Aliza Davidovit is on our website at www.jewishlinkbc.com as of Thursday night, August 8. JLBC, because of time and space constraints, did not interview Republican candidates in the Republican primary, as pundits, polls and opinionaters have declared the seat a Democratic one. Still, we will, indeed interview the Republican who runs against the Democrat in the election proper.

There were more than a few surprises last Monday night, when the four Democrats showed up at Montclair State University to present themselves to New Jerseyans. At first it was hard to tell if there were differences between them. After all, all are dedicated Democrats, some more traditional than others. They spent lots of time agreeing, talking about Russia, China policy, and the hoovering of personal information on a monumental scale by the National Security Agency and other intelligence gathering agencies—as well as a discussion about Edward Snowden, the man who released the information.

Surprise Number One was that the predicted winner in the race took a considerable amount of heat from his opponents, and basically gave what the pundits and pollsters described as a disappointing showing. Booker spent most of his time talking about how he brought Newark back from the dead, New Jersey’s largest city, with three percent of the state’s population is responsible for 33 percent of its growth. He spent much of the time agreeing with the other candidates on almost everything except school vouchers. He came across as the most Clintonesque of the group…a moderate Democrat, not averse to cutting deals with the private sector to make his city grow.

Surprise Number two was Booker’s position on full support for the rebels in Syria, without considering the nuances of internecine battles  between Shia, Sunni, Alawite, Kurds and Salafis—and trying to separate the good guys from the bad guys. There are terrorists on all sides there, the other candidates said, and the surrounding countries are susceptible to collapse. They seemed to choose a more cautious approach. As Congressman Frank Pallone noted, America doesn’t have the stomach for a ground war in Syria. All the candidates agreed that the refugees and the surrounding countries will need humanitarian assistance to get them through.

Surprise Number Three: A strong showing by Susan Oliver, who has been around the block politically, as a volunteer, civil servant and a public servant. She focused on the needs of New Jerseyans trying to extricate themselves from the debris of the middle class, and are just trying to survive. She also spoke for the poor and disabled. She is the speaker of the assembly in Trenton, a tough job in a hard ball political world. Jersey is not for amateurs.

Citing Shirley Chisholm, the Congresswoman from Crown Heights, Brooklyn as her role model, she agreed with the others on practical, progressive ways of dealing with all the issues concerning privacy, American security, relationships with Russia, health care. She said that if the Affordable Care Act proves to have problems, they can be fixed. She said it was time for a woman to go to the senate to represent 53 percent of New Jersey’s population—women. But the topic that got a rise out of her was education and Booker’s support of vouchers.

On this she agrees with Representatives Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, the other two candidates, but she took it a step further she said that a closer look at Newark schools show signs of a politically corrupt and failed system, which is destroying the public schools. She talked about recreating economies on a local level, because the tax base is gone in an aging suburbia. Oliver believes in a one-payer system and supports the Affordable Care Act.

Two of her competitors, Representatives Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, helped write it.

Surprises number three and four: Rush Holt started off by saying that he doesn’t run into burning buildings, but thinks he did a fine job as a congressman. Among the achievements he touted was getting funding to help suicidal war veterans. Yes, he is against vouchers, but earlier in the week said he could consider tuition tax credits. But his performance was surprisingly, lackluster, despite his progressive stance and good ideas.

The other surprise is that he was the only candidate to mention the threat to Israel’s security because of the ongoing battles raging in Syria. “It’s clear to me that the public has no stomach for military intervention in Syria, and we should learn from what happened in Afghanistan when we armed the mujahidin. The enemy of my enemy is still not my friend. Hezbollah is tied up in this, and Israel needs to be saved and what’s happening in Syria affects that.”

Surprise number five: Frank Pallone made a solid impression as a congressman who wanted to end the sequester and knows his way around a backroom or two. He said the Lautenberg family supported his candidacy and feels that he is the inheritor of Lautenberg’s legacy. He also said the Tea Party was killing America with the sequester, that they wouldn’t allow the government to jump start the economy. He called for reform in the tax codes so that the rich should pay more…and lower the rates for corporations who would manufacture their goods here in the States. He called for investments in infrastructure, and in our schools, reforms all echoed by the other candidates.

He made sure congress sent money to cities to keep law enforcement and fire departments on the job. And he told people, “Don’t believe the Tea Party. The Affordable Care Act is one of the best pieces of legislation we ever passed. This is a major achievement and the Tea Party is still trying to kill it. We couldn’t get a public option, but being an effective politician you compromise. As Senator Kennedy used to say, half a loaf is better than none.”

Booker, who has a record of not showing up for debates, was accused of snubbing the other candidates when he attended an Oprah Winfrey charity dinner instead of participating in a debate in Newark two weeks ago. Then, there was an empty seat with a microphone at the table, along with a placard bearing his name. He did not show. But on Monday night, he showed up and pushed back.

Pallone and Holt and Holt he said, had nearly 40 years of experience between them and if voters like the way things are in Washington they should vote for them. “Enough is enough. We have seen what 40 years of experience is getting us. It’s time for a different type of leadership.”

By Jeanette Friedman

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