NEW JERSEY – Two of the three candidates running in the general election for New Jersey’s Third Congressional District faced off in a virtual informational forum today hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ).

Christina Renna, President and CEO of CCSNJ, asked CD-3 candidates incumbent Democrat Andy Kim and Republican David Richter for answers to a series of prepared questions. Independent candidate Marty Weber said he did not receive an invitation to the event.

Both candidates expressed different views on the pandemic. Kim pointed out the number of spikes throughout the country and worried that New Jersey would go through a second wave of the virus.

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“I do believe that the worst of the pandemic is behind us but that the economic effects are going to last a lot longer,” said Richter. “,,,We did not only flatten the curve in New Jersey, but we flatlined from early June until now.”

Kim disputed Richter’s characterization of a downtrend, saying that there was a twenty percent increase this week in the number of positive cases.

“We are worried about an uptick,” Kim said. “In fact, Ocean County has by far the highest number of new cases in the state. Burlington is about five or six on the list.”

As far as providing federal assistance to businesses, Kim said he wanted to work with the same sense of urgency and bipartisan efforts that resulted in the CARES Act.  He saw a real need for a second round of the paycheck protection program and other small business support.

Richter acknowledged that small businesses had been adversely affected by the pandemic - placing some of the blame on what he called the governor’s overreaction.  He felt Congress acted appropriately in passing initial assistance. However, he thinks the package proposed by the democrats – contains a “wish list of liberal programs.”

The Republican candidate said that states like Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts should not be bailed out when they created their own problems.

The candidates were questioned about their thoughts concerning health coverage, including the proposed dismantling of the Affordable Cares Act.

According to Kim, one of his first actions as a freshman congressman was to reach across the aisle to work on a bipartisan bill to create a state health exchange to lower costs. He was particularly concerned about gutting provisions for preexisting conditions.

“I have never said that I supported Medicare for all,” clarified Kim. “I want us to be able to get to a place in this country where everyone rich or poor can make sure they get the treatment they need and deserve.”

Richter said that when President Obama was in office, Obamacare was packaged as a means of the Democratic Party fixing the health care system. It was not to be viewed as the first step towards socialized medicine and people could keep their doctors.

“Of course, that wasn’t true.” Richter said. “Medicare for all would be a program that would frankly bankrupt the system.”

According to Richter, Medicare for all would cost 33 trillion dollars over ten years. He sees the need for a plan that is sustainable and affordable. He suggested market-based initiatives as a solution.

“One of the downsides of an entitlement program is that once you put it in place, you know people rely on it,” continued Richter. “There’s no question millions of people have come to rely on Obamacare.”

As far as the opioid crisis, Richter felt that drug issues should be handled at the state level as the first line of defense.

“This is something that requires a comprehensive strategy to be able to address,” countered Kim. “We just do not simply have one as a nation when we are losing over 700,000 people a year to overdose and addiction.”

The final question posed at the forum dealt with the lack of civility in politics and its impact on finding solutions. Both candidates were asked how to work on the lack of bipartisanship.

Kim shared the story of his first day in congress when he inadvertently sat on the Republican side of the House of Representatives.  Reporters and social media thought he was trying to send a message of bipartisanship from the start.

“I didn’t even realize what I had done,” Kim shared. “I didn’t realize there was assigned seating in Congress, but that example shows you just how pervasive this problem is that even sitting on a certain side could be considered an act of defiance.”

Since then, Kim said he has worked with other members of the federal government, such as Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican who heads up the Foreign Relations Committee.

As far as Richter is concerned, Kim “talks the talk and doesn’t walk the walk.”

Richter pointed out that Kim voted for Nancy Pelosi as speaker and also votes with her 97 percent of the time. He continued by saying that Kim is a member of the progressive caucus and voted for the impeachment.

The Republican candidate gave plenty of reasons of why he disagreed his opponent was non-partisan. However, Richter never answered how he would work towards bringing more civility in politics if he won the election.

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