Two Republicans, a Democrat, a Libertarian and a columnist

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EAST BRUNSWICK – Abbott, COAH, global warming response, stem cell research, the Transportation Trust Fund, it doesn't matter. If it comes from Trenton, drive a stake through it – that was the message coming out a gubernatorial forum here sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.

Four candidates from three different political persuasions found themselves inpossession of proud candorand anti-establishment fervor on nearly all the issues broached by veteran Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine.

"Until we as voters demand back the primary system, you're going to get complete stonewalling from the two leading canddiates," said Democrat Carl Bergmanson, a former mayor of Glen Ridge.

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and fellow Republican Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham) sat onstage in a darkened and nearly packed banquet hall at the Hilton along with Libertarian Ken Kaplan andBergmanson.

"The Highlands Act was an abomination," said Kaplan.

Lonegan one-upped him.

"It was the worstuse of eminent domain in New Jersey history," he said. "At least the Indians got blankets and beads. These property owners didn't even get that."

Mulshine threw in a quip about Democrats declaring Princeton a blighted area for purposes of eminent domain.

"I grew up in Princeton," said Merkt. "The only blight in Princeton is socialist liberalism."

"Kill COAH (the Council on Affordable Housing)," Kaplan said a moment later.

"Mount Laurel is an abomination," agreed Bergmanson.

"I want to start drilling off the coast of New Jersey as soon as possible," Lonegan said in handling another question. "If windmills are any good, theprivate sectorwill do it, but they should not come at the expense of the taxpayers of New Jersey."

Now it was Kaplan's turn.

"As a Libertarian, many have accused me of tilting at windmills," he said.

"My position is the same," said Bergmanson. "Whenever the government tries to do something – and I say this as lovingly as possible -it doesn't do it very well. We need to getout of the private sector's wway."

Merkt turned to the audience.

"Would you trust the same organization that gave you the post office and toxic mortgages to do energy? Let private enterprise take control of the situation."

"You're breathing out CO2. The next thing they're going to do is put meters on our breath," said Lonegan.

The claps and cheers halted suddenly when Bergmanson said he believes there is a CO2 problem.


"But it's not a function of state government to micromanage the issue," he insisted, and that won back the crowd.

"All these people who voted for that Global Warming Response Act – you go to the parking garage and they're all driving gigantic SUVs," Mulshine put in.

Objecting only to Merkt's repeated skepticism concerning the powers of the governor with respect to the legislature, Lonegan cracked, "I do not agree that we cannot achieve these kinds of results. With you as attorney general we can do a great job together."

Two Republicans, a Democrat, a Libertarian and a columnist