WOODBRIDGE – They agree on low taxes and strong defense, but one distinguishing issue for Republicans in the 7th district congressional primary is the environment.
State Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon) explains that “conservative” and “conservation” have the same derivation, and does not favor drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as a way of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“We need greater accountability in Iraq so the Iraqis can pump oil from the sands of their country,” said Lance. “Given the fact we have helped the Iraqis, it is important for them to have political reconciliation so that oil may come back online.”
Meanwhile, Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks mocks the support Lance receives from the Sierra Club, and along with businesswoman Kate Whitman of Peapack-Gladstone and most of the other Republican candidates, supports drilling for oil in ANWR.
None of the candidates’ campaign brochures at a forum in Woodbridge on Monday cited energy or the environment as an issue he or she would focus on as a member of congress. Kelly Hatfield, the former Summit Council President, was the only one to mention the latter in her introductory remarks.
“We need a 21st Century energy policy, one that strengthens our environment and our dollar,” said the candidate.
But in a field of eight in which Marks and Warren Mayor Victor Sordillo appear to be in a battle to occupy the right flank, it was Marks who went out of his way to highlight his difference with Lance on conservation issues.
“Leonard Lance will boast that he has the support of the Sierra Club, but they certainly won’t talk to me,” Marks told a small crowd of Woodbridge Republicans at the Forge.
Repeatedly describing himself as “your across the board Republican conservative” in the race, Marks turned a question about alternative energy into a Ted Kennedy punch-line.
“They ought to put windmills in his face up there in Hyannis port,” Marks said of the Massachusetts senator, who resisted a local wind turbine project on a claim of not-in-my-backyard.
“Shame on him,” Marks said of Kennedy. “He’s a hypocrite.”
Like Lance, Whitman is pro-choice on abortion. But on the question of drilling in ANWR, she is closer to Marks.
“Studies have shown the caribou actually like some of the things they put in there,” Whitman said of those areas in Alaska where oil drilling is allowed.
Her campaign manager, Anthony Attanasio, later said Whitman was referring to federal research that shows how caribou prefer grazing near heat-generating drilling fixtures because they scare away the mosquitoes.
“If it is done in an environmentally sensitive way, she is for drilling in ANWR because of our need to get off of our dependency on foreign oil, and use more oil in U.S. territory,” Attanasio said. “She wants it done in as friendly a way as possible. Nobody’s proposing running in there and tearing it out Kate grew up in a rural-suburban environment and is very pro-environment– to a point.”