SOMERVILLE – Moments before he spoke at a Somerville town hall meeting, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) pushed back at claims that his views have drifted too far to the right since getting elected to Congress in 2008.
“I’m not sure there has been a change. I’ve always voted my conscience,” Lance told PolitickerNJ on Monday in the back of the auditorium at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. “I approach each issue as it comes to me. I think the most important issue in Washington is to try to get the economy stronger and try to create an environment where the private sector can create the new jobs that America so desperately needs.”
Lance was responding to criticism registered against him by supporters of his Seventh Congressional District challenger, Democratic Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach. Kovach’s supporters have claimed that Lance, seen by some as a moderate Republican, has drifted increasingly to the right wing of his party on social issues such as abortion and on environmental issues such as climate change.
Lance defended his views.
“I was one of only eight Republicans who voted not to weaken the act related to endangered species. I’ve never indicated that I didn’t think that climate change exists. I do believe that there is climate change,” Lance, the former state Senate Minority Leader, said. “Regarding pro-life, pro-choice issues, the issues that have come before me in Congress are based on funding. I do not favor federal funding of abortion procedures, and I never have.”
At one point during the town hall meeting, Lance made a somewhat-veiled reference to the Kovach campaign regarding another issue.
“I am a believer in Social Security, I am a believer in Medicare,” Lance said. “My views on that are that we will probably raise the retirement age for Social Security for people in their twenties. In their twenties,” Lance said in response to a constituent’s question. “Having just said that, there may be [something] in your mailbox the week before the election that I wish to cut social Security. Shame on anybody who puts that in your mailbox on Halloween.”
The Seventh Congressional District, which includes all of Lance’s home county of Hunterdon as well as parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Warren and Union counties, has eastern stretches where liberal Republicans and Democrats feel more at home. But despite his earlier flash of ire, Lance seemed not to be concerned about an October surprise before the November election.
“I think my views represent the views of the overwhelming majority of the residents of the district,” Lance said. “I will present my views as completely as possible before now and Election Day. I am confident without being overconfident about the results on election evening.”