MONTCLAIR, NJ - The boxing gloves were on as Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidates Shelia Oliver and Carlos Rendo met face to face Monday in the only televised debate held prior to the upcoming NJ General Election, November 7.
Held in the Presidential Theatre on the Montclair State University campus, the telecast was hosted by NJTV News and sponsored by PSE&G for public broadcasting.
Oliver, the first African American woman elected to the New Jersey Assembly as Speaker of the House, is running on the ticket with Phil Murphy. Rendo, the only Republican Latino Mayor in the State of NJ, is running on the ticket with Kim Guadagno.
The two met face to face in the only televised debate which was moderated by Michael Laren of NJTV News As the debate rules were laid out, the two came out to state their respective positions for each question asked.
Why does New Jersey need a Lieutenant Governor?
Oliver said, "Our state constitution required that the Senate president assume the governorship if something happened, when that happened that meant that the Senate president controlled the executive branch as well. So the citizens of NJ saw fit to create the position of Lieutenant Governor.
Rendo said, "It's important to have someone in a position of authority when the Governor is out of state or incapacitated. Just like the vice president and the president of the United States, it's the same type of relationship. We need a Lieutenant Governor to make sure we continue the progress in NJ of lowering taxes and making NJ more affordable."
What do you want to do in a Murphy Administration ?
Oliver stated, "I define my difference from Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, in that, I want to represent the interests of all sectors of the NJ community. Lieutenant Governor Guadagno focused solely on the duties of the secretary of state but limited her focus and attention at what was supposed to be economic growth and job creation."
The moderator asked, "So what cabinet position do you want? To that, Oliver responded, "I have not made a determination of what cabinet position I would like to assume but I certainly would want to represent broader issues in our state and I don't feel that Lieutenant Guadagno did that as Secretary of State.
Rendo responded, "That would be up to Ms. Guadagno as to what she would select for me." In his response, he challenged Oliver to declare what she was running for either Lieutenant Governor or for the State Assembly, accusing Oliver of possible dual office-holding.
"Are you going to elect someone who really wants to be an assemblywoman or Lieutenant Governor?" he stated to the audience.
Oliver quipped back, "I petitioned for the assembly prior to being selected as a Lieutenant Governor candidate." She further continued, "If Mr. Rendo knew something about our state Government, he would know that you cannot have dual office-holding in NJ. So if, in fact, the voters of NJ select Phil Murphy and I to provide leadership to this state, of course, I would resign as a member of the General Assembly."
The moderator asked Rendo if her response was satisfactory, to which he replied, "Have her resign now and tell the citizens of NJ that she wants to be lieutenant governor."
He continued, "That's what we are running for, we are not running for the assembly, we are running for the position of lieutenant governor."
Turning to Oliver, Rendo demanded that she resign from office of the assembly "right now!"
Oliver smiled, in response. The moderator reminded him that she said if the ticket she is on, won, that she would resign from the office of the assembly. The audience responded in chuckles.
Moving onto another topic, the moderator referred Rendo to a video ad currently being run by the ticket he is on depicting young Latinos as criminals. He was asked how he could defend the ad.
"As governor and lieutenant governor, we are elected to uphold the law. That is what we will do." He then accused the Murphy-Oliver ticket of being anti-cop and anti-law enforcement by bringing up the notion of sanctuary cities, illegal immigrants, and the schoolyard shooting of several teenagers in Newark.
Rendo began taking previous comments by Murphy and relaying them inaccurately. The moderator then corrected Rendo and clarified his comment to reflect accurately what was said or done in that case.
Oliver clarified, "It was disgraceful, divisive, pitting one ethnic group and cultural groups against another." She went on, "That is is how the Guadagno campaign has continued to conduct itself these past several weeks. I am abhorred at that address."
Discussion of sanctuary cities and DACA were brought up where both candidates had different assessments. The moderator pointed out that they were two separate issues.
Rendo once again called the Murphy team anti-cop.
To that Oliver replied, "Look at my record."
Property taxes were then discussed.
New Jersey residents pay 3 times the national average of property taxes. 50 % of that goes to education, while the other goes to run local government and cover labor costs and pensions. There are 565 municipalities in the state of NJ.
Oliver replied stating that the current administration gutted 9 billion dollars in school funding, forcing municipalities to raise taxes.
Rendo responded saying that If the the Guadagno ticket is elected, that New Jersey home owners would see a decrease of $875 in taxes. Holding up a blank piece of paper, he claimed the Murphy ticket had no such plan.
Oliver snapped back that the plan came with all the bells but what was not mentioned is that the savings would not apply to many citizens of the state and that many cuts only apply to those that make over $140,000 a year.
Discussion continued and various possibilities were mentioned.
Also discussed were the cuts made at NJ Transit with Oliver accusing the Christie administration of using NJ as a bank and giving tax credits only to the wealthy.
Moving on to the next topic, both candidates were asked about anti-semitism. Rendo's administration was accused of blocking construction of a synagogue in his town and Oliver was accused of voting to not support Israel, a claim both denied.
When it came time to ask each other questions, Oliver asked, "Your platform has been on getting a handle on our pension system. That report was squashed, hidden and buried. Do you believe that report should be made public to the people of NJ?"
Rendo responded, "First of all, that was investigated, investigated thoroughly and they found no cause on that issue. So this is a past thing, it's irrelevant, it's closed. It's been fully investigated and there's nothing there again.
Oliver further asked, "Does the public have the right to see the report?"
Rendo said, "There is nothing to present to the public. There is no report to say that she committed a wrongful act.
"Are you going to demand that Mr. Murphy release his taxes so that NJ can see how much money off of gun sales or oil profits off of countries that repress speech?"
"First of all Mayor Rendo, Phil Murphy did make his tax returns available to the public in NJ....I might say, unlike the president you supported who has still not given his taxes to the United States citizens."
She continued, "Guadagno is hypocritical to say that he has supported gun manufacturers, when she has taken $50.000 from the NRA to create the heinous ads in NJ that are running. That's hypocritical to me."
In his reply Rendo fired back, "What's hypocritical is your trip to Cuba, your support of the Iranians and the PLO, your vote On Israel." Accusing Oliver and others of traveling to Cuba on taxpayers money.
Oliver answered that she and others paid their own way.
In their closing remarks, they both closed by restating their positions and appealing to the public for their votes.
To watch the Full debate go to NJTVNEWS.ORG