On Thursday, October 8, Stockton University hosted New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District Debate between Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew and local South Jersyian school teacher Amy Kennedy. The event took place at the university’s John F. Scarpa Academic Center.
Stockton University’s John Froonjian, Interim Executive Director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, moderated. Spotlight news’ journalists Briana Vannozi, Senior Correspondent David Cruz, and Colleen O’Dea presented questions to the candidates.
The debate’s main topics included the outbreak of COVID-19, The Federal Pandemic Relief (CARES ACT) and stimulus funding, election security, healthcare and Obamacare, South Jersey’s economy, and transportation issues, race and policing, climate change, abortion, and social security.
Many points brought up during the debate were agreed on by the debaters; however, their approaches to passing legislation differed.
Igniting the debate was the first topic of the Coronavirus, specifically about how the President of the United States and the White House handled the situation. Van Drew agreed with Kennedy that President Trump was irresponsible for going out after knowing his senior counsel Hope Hicks tested positive. Kennedy emphasized the mixed messaging from the White House and the current mask controversy.
Both also agreed in support of another round of stimulus checks for American citizens in need.
On healthcare, Kennedy believes that there should be Medicare for all and that the country should maintain the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, Van Drew believes that the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, but since there is nothing good to replace it yet, he will not vote against it until something better comes along. Both support maintaining employer-sponsored healthcare.
The opponents also both agree on lowering the prices of prescription drugs.
In a question addressed to improving the economy in South Jersey, Kennedy plans to use her power, if elected, to invest in infrastructure to build “not just bridges and roads, but climate resilience,” which will bring good-paying jobs. She said she plans to build out research and green technology while also supporting small businesses.
Van Drew’s response to the failing economy in South Jersey included helping the tourism industry, working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to add new technology.
The topic of conversation shifted to racism and policing, which is where the two candidates disagreed most. Kennedy made clear that she acknowledges systemic racism, offering statistics of how New Jersey’s school districts are among the most segregated, and labeling the disparities. In this debate, she claimed to be against defunding the police, contradicting her past claims of thinking reallocating funds is worth discussing.
Van Drew countered this opinion, claiming that systemic racism does not exist and especially not in the police force. Van Drew believes that police need more funding to offer them better education, more resources, and community policing to become better acquainted with the communities where they work.
Climate change was another topic of discussion that the two did agree on. With New Jersey being particularly at risk for the effects of climate change, this topic is extremely crucial.
Kennedy plans to allocate funds to infrastructure to build climate resilience, such as dams, dunes, bridges, and protections for businesses and homes. Also, she said it is vital to invest in green energy so that “we don’t see further climate change,” Kennedy said.
Van Drew believes that climate change is threatening the district, despite some Republicans’ views on the issue. He reminded the audience that he was a sponsor for the Land and Water Conservation fund that guarantees open air and open space in the district. Van Drew wants to focus on carbon capture, zoning, and solar energy.
“What I don’t believe in, is sometimes we make deals with countries like China, which is responsible for 28% alone, 28% of the carbon and 28% of the pollution, then we give them a special deal that they can still go on and keep doing that and we’ll pay for it.” Van Drew said.
Both would like to improve the transportation issue in South Jersey. Van Drew emphasized how hard he fought in congress to keep the NJ transit in Atlantic City.
When discussing abortion laws, Kennedy made it clear her beliefs stood as pro-choice. Van Drew’s ideas were a little less clear since he stated he does not support late-term abortions, does not support live term abortions but does support abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or the pregnancy risking the life of the mother.
One of the final topics was on gun control, where Kennedy emphasized her role as a school teacher where she has trained children to hide in corners, “because we simply haven’t come up with good meaningful changes to make sure we’re using common-sense gun laws.”
Van Drew supports universal background checks but believes in punishing the people who create and commit crimes, not the legal gun owners.