The Republican legislative leadership this morning put pressure on the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) to keep the first gubernatorial debate scheduled for October 1.
“The people of this State deserve to start hearing the candidates discuss major issues well in advance of the general election,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) in a letter to ELEC Chairwoman Jerry Fitzgerald English. “A delay will reduce the impact and importance of the debate by placing it closer to major sporting events and placing it so close to the actual election that there will be little time to address issues that may arise in the course of the debate."
The leaders called Corzine’s request to hold the debate at a later date “an effort to obscure meaningful discussion of our State’s serious problems and the approaches to dealing with them.”
The commission will hold a telephonic meeting this afternoon to discuss whether to move the debate to October 22, which NJN requested after Corzine said he would not participate on October 1.
Bill Stepien, who manages Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie’s campaign, asked why Corzine cannot participate on the originally scheduled date.
"New Jerseyans deserve to hear a timely and thorough debate of Jon Corzine's record and proposals for our state's future. What could be so important on October 1st that Jon Corzine cannot be bothered to join the other candidates in the race for a thoughtful debate on the issues?” he said. “Considering Jon Corzine's only dialogue with voters so far has through negative attacks ads, we shouldn't be surprised Jon Corzine is afraid to debate according to ELEC's timely and fair schedule.”
Christie's campaign chairman, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown), also wrote to ELEC this morning, charging that Gov. Corzine — who because he does not take matching funds is not required to participate in any debates — should not be able to manipulate the schedule.
"The people of New Jersey deserve an open discussion of the issues in this election, and the public financing structure funded with their own tax dollars to be impartial, independent, and worthy of their respect," he said. "This is best accomplished by maintaining the current debate schedule, and not bowing to the political calculations of any one candidate – and I emphasize – particularly one who has chosen to operate outside of the system altogether."