Stender fronts commitment to health care, defends herself against GOP attacks

FANWOOD – Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union) flexed her party muscles today as she toured a senior care facility here with chief deputy whip in the U.S. House, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and defended herself against attacks from prospective general election rivals.

Stender, the Democrats’ nominee in the 7th District Congressional District, and Wasserman Schultz, co-chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, underscored their commitment to universal health care, Medicare and Social Security.

“We need to elect someone with a conscience, who understands that health care should be a high priority,” said Wasserman Shultz, sitting with Stender in the parlor of the Chelsea at Fanwood. “That’s why I’m here, to highlight Linda’s promising candidacy.”

It wasn’t the first time Wasserman Schultz has come to New Jersey to support Stender. In 2006, the Floridian appeared at her fellow Democrat’s side as the assemblywoman came up just short in attempting to oust U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-7).

Wasserman Schultz credited Stender with forcing Ferguson into retirement, leaving the field open to seven GOP primary challengers.

“We’re ready to get her across the finish line this time,” said the congresswoman.

As they tried to drum up party backing in the 7th District, Republicans over the last weeks have naturally targeted Stender, with each candidate making a case as to why he or she would be better suited than the Democratic assemblywoman to represent the district.

Stender today answered criticisms regularly leveled at her from several of her prospective opponents, including state Sen. Leonard Lance, businesswoman Kate Whitman, Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks, and Iraq War veteran Thomas Roughneen.

An impassioned defender of President George W. Bush’s Iraq War policy, Roughneen argues that he could most credibly mute Stender on the war with real life arguments about why America should be engaged in the Middle Eastern country, and why the war needed to be waged in the first place.

Stender said, “I respect and applaud his service, but I totally disagree that going to war was the right choice. I opposed it from the beginning. It has cost us the lives of 4,000 soldiers and $12 billion a month in spending.”

Prospective opponent Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, often makes the case that Stender has supported multiple spending increases during her tenure as an assemblywoman. Whitman presents herself as a fresh face without the baggage of having served in public office.

“Kate Whitman is the age of my daughter,” Stender groused. “She doesn’t have the experience that can be examined to determine anything about her. All that we know is she is the daughter of a governor who put us into this fiscal mess by cutting taxes, increasing spending and bonding the future.”

Stender tried to deflate Marks’s candidacy by pointing to his unsuccessful run for the state senate in 2003, and his right wing positions.

“Martin was resoundingly beaten for that job,” said the Democrat. “People agree he doesn’t deserve to represent them, with his pro life views and his opposition to stem cell research.”

As for Lance, whom she described as a “respected member of the Legislature,” Stender said as a Republican in Congress, he would not be among the ranks of a party that will move to extricate America from Iraq and invest in universal healthcare.

“The notion that the Republicans are the party of fiscal conservancy when under their leadership they turned a record surplus into a record deficit, at a time when a bridge collapses in Minneapolis and the president says there’s no money to fix our infrastructure – is outrageous,” Stender said.

Stender fronts commitment to health care, defends herself against GOP attacks