Politics should be conducted with the conviction that all its participants, from voters to elected officials, desire the best for their communities. Any disagreements should be over the best methods to achieve that goal; personal motivations and character should never be attacked. As chairman of the Caldwell Democratic County Committee, I have repeatedly emphasized this to our members. Our 2019 candidates for Borough Council, Jeff Gates and Fran DePalma-Iozzi, have pledged to conduct a campaign free of personal attacks and based solely on the issues. I have communicated this same pledge in person to my former and current Republican counterparts. We are neighbors before we are Democrats or Republicans. We all love our families and neighborhoods. We all want to see our property values increase, and all of us want to see Caldwell to flourish. We catch up with each other at local sporting events and Downtown. We share good conversation and keep good company. We all believe that people are more important than party affiliation. We all agree that we want the best for Caldwell even though we sometimes strongly disagree about the best policy to help us get there.
These norms of civility are being eroded at the highest level of political discourse, and, unfortunately, it is affecting the local campaign for Borough Council. It is in this context that I find some of the public statements by the Capozzoli and Penna campaign very disappointing. Earlier this year, Capazzoli and Penna posted a video on their campaign Facebook page of Ms. Penna making pejorative, blanket statements such as “Democrats want Section 8 housing; they do not want neighborhoods” and “Democrats aren’t fans of private property because they know that those who do own property have a vested interest in everything that goes on in their town, and that does not work in their favor” (7/12/19). When I pointed out the fact that she was mistaken about these claims and asked Ms. Penna to retract them, she refused and doubled-down. Earlier this month, Capazzoli and Penna mailed literature which stated, “Democrats want to demonize Republicans” (10/2/19). More recently, Capozzoli and Penna made additional posts on their campaign Facebook page that referred to Jeff and Fran “disingenuous” and “dishonest” (10/10/19), (10/14/19). These hyper-partisan statements and personal attacks are irresponsible and do not reflect the respect for all Caldwell residents that is necessary for effective governance.
I encourage Councilman Capozzoli and Ms. Penna to speak with their Democratic neighbors to ask them if they, in fact, don’t want neighborhoods and whether, in fact, they aren’t fans of private property. They will find that we all love our neighborhoods, cherish our homes, and are committed to making Caldwell a better place to live. We simply have different opinions on how to best realize that goal. Instead of publicly disparaging the honesty and sincerity of their opponents, the residents of Caldwell deserve to hear exactly how Capozzoli and Penna would pay for the necessary repairs to infrastructure, increases in police salaries, updating the accessibility of the municipal website, and replenishment of emergency funds without any raise in taxes. Policy debates are necessary for Caldwell to flourish and are essential to the larger democratic process. Jeff and Fran are eager to have them; they are honest people who consistently critique ideas from both sides by the single criterion of Caldwell’s long-term best interest. However, pejorative hyper-partisan statements and personal attacks on the character of fellow residents should always be off-limits in political discourse.