TRENTON – The week was full of aggressive rhetoric from at-odds politicos: Christie/Buono, Booker/Lonegan.
State lawmakers sounded off on topics ranging from funding education to fighting Newark crime to bombing Syria.
This is an autumn election season heating up.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Barbara Buono launched her extensive and expensive platform for basic and higher education programs from the campus of Rutgers University to kick off the holiday-shortened week.
Her platform addressed many key aspects of education: She would restore full funding for after-school programs, institute full-day kindergarten, expand early childhood education, and for higher education, increase tuition assistance, hike funding for vocational programs, and invest more in county colleges, among other things.
The key question asked of her that day – and the key point the Christie camp hammered at immediately – revolved around funding: How would she pay for it?
According to Gov. Chris Christie, the K-12 portion of her plan alone would cost $3 billion in new spending the state does not have.
Buono’s response? It would involve a millionaire’s tax, but that alone would not get the job done. Christie said later in the week that he believes she would have to raise taxes on everyone, not just higher-income residents.
But Buono maintained as she rolled out the specifics of her program that to not invest in education is dangerous, especially in a state such as New Jersey that relies on a highly trained work force. She emphasized that it will take investment to stem the outward migration of college students and improve the opportunities for basic education students.
That was not the only point of contention between Buono and Christie this past week.
Christie took issue with remarks of Buono’s that surfaced in a video on the web in which she said basically that seeing Christie frolicking on the beach is not going to drive her to go to the shore.
Buono maintained that she was referring to his “Stronger than the Storm’’ ads and the fact he made himself the star of ads that she said should have been used to highlight the storm-wracked businesses that are trying to recover.
Christie was having none of that. He maintained she was making references to his weight just as occurred during the campaign against former Gov. Corzine four years ago.
At first, Buono said she would not dignify his remarks with a comment, and she reiterated that she believes he used the tourism ads as campaign ads and that Shore businesses should have been featured in those ads.
The problem for the Buono camp, is that in a race in which she trails by a wide margin in the polls, this has the potential to become an unwelcome distraction from substantive issues on which she hopes to draw support.
On Friday she still was addressing the issue, arguing that Christie has turned the whole thing into a controversy that can be used to distract voters from important campaign matters.
While members of Congress debated whether to retaliate against Syria for gassing its own people, the candidates for U.S. Senate in New Jersey dealt with it as well.
Republican Steve Lonegan has made up his mind: He opposes the use of force in Syria and says America cannot get dragged into another war.
Democrat Cory Booker – who leads by a wide margin in polls – remains noncommittal, saying he is not privy to the sometimes confidential briefings that members of Congress participate in, and thus it is premature to stake out a position.
But that was not all for Booker vs. Lonegan.
The Newark mayor had offered up his crime-fighting platform previously, and Lonegan has been relentless in saying Booker should pay more attention to the spate of homicides and other crime in that city before coming up with a plan for the rest of the state and country.
It has given Lonegan, who trails in the polls by a considerable amount, an issue to keep hammering Booker with as the special election draws nearer.