HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Six Democratic candidates determined to defeat longtime Republican Rep. Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District in November’s mid-term elections did their best Wednesday night to convince a group of 75 local Democrats that they have what it takes to get the job done.
But only one of them will get the chance.
A seventh candidate Peter Jacob, was represented by a surrogate.
Election Day 2018 is Nov. 6, just 11 months away; looming closer is the Democratic Primary in New Jersey, June 5.
The candidates each had a total of five minutes to present their qualifications and strategies before the attentive audience at the Avalon Assisted Living facility on Amwell Road.
Seated side-by-side at the dais in front of the room were Goutam Jois, an attorney who describes himself as an activist and advocate; Tom Malinkowski, a resident of Rocky Hill who served as assistant Secretary of State under President Obama; Lisa Mandelblatt, a resident of Westfield who gave up her career as an attorney to dedicate herself to work at her synagogue and community; Donald Pringle, of Cranford, who portrayed himself as a “lifelong progressive advocate, telling the audience “I live and breathe the Seventh District;” Scott Salmon, a Scotch Plains attorney , who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses and Linda Weber, a resident of Berkeley Heights, who described herself as a wife and mother of two boys, with 30 years experience as a business executive.
Representing Jacob was spokesman Cristopher Cepello.
Lance was re-elected to a fifth term in 2016 and has represented the central New Jersey district in Congress since 2009.
Jacob, a social worker and vice-president of a family-owned security business, was the Democratic candidate for the 7th Congressional District in 2016. Lance defeated Jacob, winning by a margin 54.1 percent o 43.1 percent. Lance received 185,850 votes to Jacob’s 148,188 votes.
The candidates disagreed on little, and were unified in what they see as the major challenges facing residents of the 75 towns in the Seventh Congressional District, 17 or which are in Somerset County.
Time constraints did not permit the audience to ask candidates questions during their presentations.
All criticized Lance for his voting record in Congress and labeled the congressman as an “enabler” for President Trump and his policies.
All did their best to sell their credentials, passion, ability to build and organize a campaign staff and to raise funds for what is expected to be a high-profile, high-cost campaign.
Mandelblatt said it will cost between $5-7 million for television advertising.
“Trump is truly tearing apart the fabric of what makes this country great,” Pringle said. “Trump is pushing us backwards; He’s making us worse again,” he added.
Malinowski characterized the recently enacted tax reform package as “economic malpractice, a tax scam designed to hurt states like ours,” and said he would work to repeal the tax package if he were to be elected.
Weber noted that the Seventh Congressional District in New Jersey has been targeted by the national Democratic Committee as one of 23 “flippable” districts that could swing from Republican to Democratic control in November, helping to tilt the balance of power in the House of Representatives
“We need a new generation of leaders,” Salmon said; he also said he was in favor of increasing the state’s hourly minimum wage to $12.
“I believe in the promise of the American dream but it is slipping away from too many people,” Kois said.
Ceppello, on behalf of Jacob, said voters are being forced to confront “generational issues that require generational solutions,” suggesting the economy is rigged and “does not respond to us.”
Mandelblatt, who portrays herself as an outsider, said “We need someone in Washington that represents us, not Paul Ryan,” a reference to the Speaker of the House.
The candidates agreed that Washington is “broken,” President Trump is divisive, and that priorities should include affordable and accessible health care, investments in schools and teachers, an urgency to address infrastructure, global warning and tax reform.