In Middlesex, GOP candidates target Stender & Pelosi

WOODBRIDGE – The Republican congressional candidates vying to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson last night mostly found common ground by calling for President George W. Bush’s tax cuts to be made permanent, and depicting likely Democratic nominee Assemblywoman Linda Stender as a big government liberal.

A forum sponsored by the Woodbridge Township Republican Organization and heldat the Forge, featured Kate Whitman, State Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon), Warren Township Mayor Victor Sordillo, Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks, former Summit Council President Kelly Hatfield, Bridgewater Town Councilman Michael Hsing, Iraq War veteran/ex-Prosecutor Thomas Roughneen, and Seton Hall University business professor A.D. Amar. Of the announced candidates, only former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Chris Venis was absent.

Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, focused in her opening remarks on the record of Stender, who voted for 94 tax increases, according to the Republican candidate.

Unless Stender is stopped, “She will take her failed policies to Washington where she will be a rubber stamp for (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi,” said Whitman, who reminded the crowd that Pelosi was in New Jersey recently fund-raising for the Democrat.

Pelosi was a common target all night for the Republican candidates.

Lance bewailed the country’s $10 trillion deficit and pledged to vigorously oppose raising taxes. On the issue of the Iraq War he said he would defer to General David Petraeus. “Those decisions should be made on the ground and not by politicians like Nancy Pelosi,” Lance said.

Sordillo and Marks both highlighted their opposition to abortion as a distinguishing feature from the rest of the eight-person field. “Show me a woman who would not give up her life for her child and I’ll show you a woman who might be a danger to that child,” said Sordillo, who also noted his 30-year record in international business.

While anti-government economic issues dominated, the candidates also discussed national security concerns, and the pro-choice Hatfield chose to underline her commitment to renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). “Congress needs to pass FISA legislation,” Hatfield said. “Without it, the federal government cannot protect us from terrorism.”

Roughneen, son of Irish immigrants, used the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day to highlight his commitment to pro-business tax policies. In Ireland, he noted, a tax rate of 12% has resulted in a thriving business community made up in no small part of transplanted American businesses. In New Jersey, a business tax rate of 38% has produced a stagnant business climate by contrast, he said.

Presenting himself as the American immigrant son made good, Roughneen noted the presence on the dais of political family scions Lance and Whitman. “Everybody knows those stories,” said the candidate, urging the crowd to embrace a new story.

Marks drew a big hand from the crowd when he followed Roughneen and pledged to fight against earmarks and pork barrel spending while increasing care for service veterans. “The way we have treated our veterans has been a national disgrace,” said the Scotch Plains mayor.

A proud Korean immigrant, son of a fighter pilot who wants to make English America’s official language, Hsing said, “This body is imported from Taiwan, but make no mistake, this heart is all American.”

Amar, who identified himself as a Hindu born into a conservative family, highlighted his knowledge of business and the economy. “Washington doesn’t need another politician,” said Amar. “It needs someone to work with the economy.”

Part of Middlesex forms the smallest portion of the 7th Congressional district, which is composed of parts of four counties, including Hunterdon, Somerset and Union. In county conventions to date, Lance won in his home county of Hunterdon while Hatfield won in her home county of Union.

In Middlesex, GOP candidates target Stender & Pelosi