To the Editor:
As the Chair of the GOP Committee in Chatham Township, I want to put an end to the nonsensical idea that our candidates for the Township Committee refused to debate. Be it poor reporting or deliberate deception, this is, simply, false. Rez Estevez and Mark Hamilton chose to debate. Whether the League of Women Voters chose not to provide the full story to the Chatham Courier or the reporter chose not to report the full story is for them to work out. But one way or another an irresponsible report was made, allowing the Democrats to once again shape a false narrative.
The fact is that one of the GOP candidates could not participate in a debate in Chatham on the date unilaterally chosen by the LWV for a very specific reason. It’s unfortunate that Democrats have forced this to become a public issue, but a family member is being laid to rest that day with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Due to the logistics of such events, they are scheduled well in advance. The LWV was informed that a conflict existed and we offered to have both candidates appear on any mutually agreeable alternative date, but the LWV flatly refused to even consider this proposal. Nonetheless, understanding the importance of the election process and a fair exchange of opinions and ideas, our one candidate who was able to attend chose to proceed with the debate, subject only to two clarifications regarding the conduct of the debate given the circumstances.
First, that the sole GOP Candidate would be given equal time to respond to questions as the Democrats. A fair and reasonable request that the LWV chose to dismiss. We also asked that candidates stand alone, to respond individually and not have the ability for two candidates to strategize or coordinate their responses between questions and counter-responses. In essence, we were not going to allow a double team on both time and candidates’ positions. The LWV could not, would not, or just did not, take time to even consider accommodating either request.
In past LWV debates, selection of questions on issues have skewed towards theatrics rather than actually challenging a candidate’s real understanding of the difficult issues facing Chatham Township and all New Jerseyans. That has been unfortunate as those same issues are now staring us in the face. The next elected Township Committee will make decisions that will have a permanent impact on Chatham Township’s future and the direction that we choose to go from election date forward as a town.
This year’s debate presented an opportunity to contrast our views as a party and with those of the liberal Democrats and our chosen candidates, Rez Estevez and Mark Hamilton, strongly support the concept that the ideas and ideals of candidates should be expressed in a debate forum. Political candidates should be allowed to be challenged in front of a public audience instead of in online forums populated with selective administrative editorial privilege, fake names, partisan political character assassins and misinformation. We would not, however, yield to an unfair process that does not serve our candidates best interest nor provide a fair, objective format or analysis to the voting public.
There are questions to be asked. You deserve to know if the Democratic candidates support the policies of Governor Murphy and will welcome them in Chatham Township. Will they support the rain tax, like other Democrat controlled towns have implemented? Another brainchild of the Governor. Will they campaign in one direction for a vote as they did in 2018 and govern in the opposite (in line with their true beliefs) as they did in 2019?
We hope in the future that the LWV will examine the way they conduct their debates to ensure all sides are represented fairly and to take into consideration the Parties’ concerns. In any event, the report in the Chatham Courier that our candidates did not respond to the LWV’s invitation is patently false and should be corrected. In the meantime, we will continue to put forth the marketplace of ideas what we stand for and believe in, and our positions on issues impacting Chatham Township. Please come meet our candidates at the Fairmount Country Store on Sunday, Oct. 27th at 3 p.m.
Chairman, Republican Party Committee of Chatham Township