Written for The Argo by Matthew Cavallo
Congressional candidates Jeff Van Drew (R) and Tim Alexander (D) squared off in a debate hosted at Stockton University on Wednesday, October 19th, in the Campus Center. Van-Drew, who is the incumbent, faced a tough debate with Democratic challenger Alexander, a former law enforcement officer.
Although the debate was only an hour long, moderators Nicholas Huba and Clyde Hughes were able to cover a wide range of topics, including climate change, the 2020 election, abortion, crime, inflation, and education. The first topic discussed was renewable energy, in which the moderators stated that Van Drew had strongly opposed renewable resources throughout CD-02. Van Drew expressed that he felt that renewable resources– wind turbines, in particular–would hurt the local fishing industry and others who work in the area, noting that they are unsightly. After Alexander was handed the floor, he expressed an urgent need to invest in companies that utilize renewable energy and hoped for parties to come together in order to move forward on the issue.
The discussion then moved to the 2020 Presidential Election. Van-Drew, who voted against the certification of President Joe Biden, deflected the question and expressed his dissatisfaction with what he says is happening to the country, citing problems with inflation, crime, and immigration. He closed by saying that Biden “is the worst president we have had since the civil war.” Alexander then expressed his concern, claiming that the issue is “MAGA vs. Democracy,” and urged the audience to get out and vote.
Another hot topic discussed was abortion, following the overturning of Roe V. Wade in June. Alexander claimed that he would “never support a ban on women’s rights,” and that the Supreme Court sent a message to women that they are inherently “less than.” Van-Drew responded, noting that he is Pro-Life; the congressman then acknowledged that a large portion of the population supports abortion early in the pregnancy, but declared it “infanticide” to obtain an abortion up to 9 months into a pregnancy. Continuing with their discussion of the Supreme Court, the men were asked about the future of same-sex marriage and LGBTQIA+ rights on the federal level. Before answering the question, Van-Drew decried recent attacks on the court following the overturning of Roe v. Wade but then said that he would codify gay marriage should Congress vote on it. Mr. Alexander responded by claiming that “disagreeing with the court is not disrespecting the court,” and added that “we respect the court when it upholds the constitution.”
An issue that Van-Drew was extremely passionate about was education. He railed against “woke policies” that he claimed are being put forward and taught in schools. He also claimed that second graders are being taught about masturbation, likely referencing the new sex education curriculum being put forward by Gov. Phil Murphy, which also focuses on LGBTQIA+ material. Alexander expressed his concern and went on to say that “it is wrong to assume that sexual identity is a choice.” In regards to what is being taught in classrooms, he said that “real and complete history” is what needs to be taught.
Following that discussion, the conversation moved to crime and policing. Van-Drew claimed that Alexander wanted to defund the police, and as a result, he believes that “we have lowered our standards for police and military recruitments.” Alexander, a former police officer, said that “the vast majority of law enforcement are good, honorable people.” He then expressed
the need for better community policing and that new law enforcement should have to “engage with the community” before they are able to put on the badge.
One of the final topics discussed was marijuana. Alexander claimed that marijuana should be decriminalized and voiced his support for President Biden on his recent move of pardoning over 1,000 people for past marijuana offenses, saying that he was “on the right track.” The Democratic candidate went on to say that recreational marijuana sales should be taxed at the federal level, but all of the money should be allocated toward K-12 schools. Van-Drew voiced his support for medical marijuana, but when it came to recreational use, he believes that it should be left up to each state. In response to Alexander’s comments on taxing weed at the federal level, the congressman voiced his concern that doing so will make the product too
expensive and people are “going to go to the streets and not get the expensive taxed stuff.”
During closing statements, each candidate made a passionate plea to the audience on why they should lead CD-02. Van-Drew noted that America is not perfect, and there is always room for improvement. He then went on to say the Democratic party “hates” America, and that if more inflation is wanted, voters should “vote for the other guy.” In his closing statement, Alexander denounced the so-called “MAGA” ideology, claiming that “America is a great country today, and there is greatness in front of us.” He vowed to fight for CD-02 and make sure that resources that normally go straight to North Jersey make it down to South Jersey as well.
A representative from The Argo was able to catch up with Tim Alexander afterward. When asked about how he thought the debate went, he said that he was not going to let the talking points make it and that “we were really going to get into the issues and talk about the facts.” He also voiced the importance of the tax on marijuana sales for the purpose of K-12 education, calling Van-Drew’s notion that people would rather “break the law” than pay the tax “nonsense.”
When asked about why he thinks we should have the votes of Stockton students, he said that “it is about the future,” and it is critical that young students need to know the importance of voting. He added that he wants “everyone to be independent and think for themselves and do a deep dive on each candidate.”
The full debate can be accessed here: https://youtu.be/2GKC5z_GqjY