WATCHUNG, NJ — Four candidates for Watchung Borough Council will debate in October, say campaign managers for the competing campaigns, Tracy DiFrancesco, managing the campaign for Republicans Amber Murad and incumbent George Sopko; and Cori Haveson, managing the campaign for Democratic candidates Wendy Robinson and Pietro ("Pete") Martino. The debate will take place on October 2 from 7:30 pm until 9 pm in Watchung's Valley View Middle School.
The debate is being planned by a bipartisan group of Watchung volunteers working closely with Marlene Sincaglia of the League of Women Voters of Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit. The LWV has committed to provide a New Jersey LWV-trained moderator for the debate.
The format for the debate will be as follows:
- Each candidate will be allowed a two-minute opening statement.
- Next each candidate will answer two questions for which they will have had the opportunity to prepare. These questions will come from the parties in Watchung - one from Democrats and one from the Republicans. Each candidate will have a minute and a half to respond to each question.
- The moderator will present questions that will have been submitted by residents and screened by a bipartisan panel to avoid duplication and personal attacks. Responses to these questions will be one minute with a 30 second rebuttals if deemed necessary.
- Finally, each candidate will have two minutes for closing remarks.
"It has been an interesting and rewarding experience to help get this debate organized," says Ray Barratt, who coordinated the committee. "I believe it's a first in Watchung. As a fervent advocate of grass roots politics, I have found it very satisfying to work with such an enthusiastic group of volunteers from across the political spectrum. The group has been motivated to bring candidates and voters together, and we are lucky to have four talented candidates who will be given every opportunity to answer residents' questions with an experienced moderator from the League of Women Voters."
Republican campaign manager DiFrancesco says of the planned debate, "We look forward to participating in the discussions of Watchung’s future by allowing Amber and George to share how hard they have been working and their future vision to make Watchung the best town in which to live."
Her Democratic counterpart Haveson had this to say: "Having a robust debate about policies and issues critical to the town's direction has been missing in Watchung. The public has been kept in the dark about the workings of government for too long. Voters deserve to hear from candidates so they can make informed choices, and I'm proud to have been part of this bipartisan committee to make it happen."
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