Democratic challenger Peter Jacob faced off against Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in the WRNJ forum on questions of energy, healthcare, and federal funding for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District.
William Westhoven, a reporter for the Morris County Daily Record, and WRNJ News Director Joyce Estey served as moderators and posed questions to the candidates.
Opening the debate, Jacob highlighted his principled stance against government corruption and the challenges he saw community members suffering as a social worker in Union County.
Leonard Lance highlighted the economic problems facing the country and promised to work with whichever Presidential candidate claims the office on November 8th.
On the issue of fracking for natural gas, Lance offered strong support for continued dependence on fossil fuels as the source of energy despite evidence that they contribute to deadly climate change. Lance stated that he “imagined” he would be oppose fracking if the decision were up to him, but stated it was not the job of Congress or the Energy and Commerce Committee on which he sits, to pass legislation banning the process.
Despite his support for burning fossil fuels, Lance has claimed opposition to the PennEast pipeline and his foe leaped on that inconsistency.
“Congressman, again here, you stated you are a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.” Jacob responded, “You have a responsibility to the people of the state of New Jersey as well as our nation to ensure we utilize energy sources that are needed. We do not need this pipeline; we are 50% over capacity.”
“And when you take money from Exon Mobil and you take money from companies like AGL and Spectra—two companies that make up the PennEast pipeline—it is hard to believe that you are opposed to the pipeline. Again, you supported legislation to fast-track such pipelines. So it is really difficult to believe what you are saying when you say you oppose the pipeline.”
Jacob declared his strong opposition to the process of fracking, instead placing focus on the renewable energy sources New Jersey has at its disposal. He included wind, solar, tidal and geothermal sources, while also noting that more than 10 million jobs in infrastructure and clean energy industries nationwide could be created with legislation he supports.
On a question of health care and how to keep prescription drug costs down, Jacob presented his plan to allow the government to work with pharmaceutical companies to negotiate lower prices for prescriptions, particularly when many of those drugs are developed through research and funding by the government. Jacob also restated his desire to see a single-payer system, like Medicare, expanded to all citizens.
Lance attacked the Affordable Care Act—a plan that is not a single payer based system–for its inability to keep insurance premium costs down and the difficulty his constituents face in keeping their doctor. Lance also brought up the widely discredited ‘death panel’ argument, stating that “I think if we were to go to a single payer system, that there would not be the type of health care the American people want. Elective surgery would be postponed, and there might be an analysis as to whether a surgery should occur at all. The American people do not want that.”
Contrary to that assertion, most Americans strongly support Medicare,
Offering a final statement, Lance listed a number of different papers, most owned by the New Jersey Hills Media group, that had given him their endorsement. He also noted that he had returned $600,000 in unused funds from his Congressional office during his time in the House. The Congressman did not address a related issue of the alleged returned NRA donation, nor the $26,000 in unrecorded campaign contributions from special interest groups Lance received this election.
Closing the debate, Jacob highlighted his years of service to the community outside of the political field and stressed that the people of the 7th District aren’t looking for any special treatment, only for what is fair. He presented an optimistic vision of reclaiming the American Dream for everybody. “I see a bright future for America, but it is going to require the right leadership. And I ask each and every single one of you to get involved in our democracy. 2016 is a very critical year for our future.”
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