CD3: In Runyan’s wake, MacArthur says he’ll serve ‘as long as voters will have me’

Saxton and Runyan join MacArthur at a campaign stop in Pemberton.
Saxton and Runyan join MacArthur at a campaign stop in Pemberton.

PEMBERTON –  Tom MacArthur, the Republican businessman vying for an open seat left vacant by outgoing U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3) in South Jersey’s third congressional district, said today that he plans to stick around longer than his predecessor — or at least as long as the voters in the Burlington and Ocean County-constituted district will let him, should he make it through election day in two weeks.

“I turned 54 last Thursday, and I come from a family with longevity in our genes,” MacArthur joked this afternoon during a press conference at the American Legion Eden-Stanley Post 294, just outside Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, where he appeared to announced a two week “get out the vote” tour of the district. “I intend to serve as long as I can be effective and as long as the people in Burlington and Ocean Counties will have me.”

MacArthur, who faces Democratic hopeful and Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, said he’ll visit all 53-towns in the district in the last lead-up to election day in an effort to turn out support for his campaign, but also to talk with voters about the race’s premier issues — healthcare, job growth, and securing funding for the joint base, a 42,000 acre military complex he called today one of the state’s great “economic engines.” He said he hopes to sit on the House Armed Services Committee in order to better serve that base and its service members.

He was joined by Runyan and 11-term Congressman Jim Saxton (R-3).

But Runyan’s presence was particularly imposing, towering above MacArthur as he stood on a stage in front of supporters. It was one of the former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker’s first public appearances since announcing his retirement late last year, after serving just four short years in the seat — a development that took many by surprise, especially considering the Republican ran on a promise of staying for eight.

While his decision has been well-documented — he penned a lengthy op-ed for Politico earlier this year explaining his reasoning — Runyan added today he did not take it lightly, but that it ultimately came down to frustration with the country’s current political climate, which he and Saxton both blasted as overly partisan.

“Government takes compromise. It takes sometimes taking one on the chin. It takes that to actually accomplish things. The unfortunate part here, and I know Speaker [John] Boehner has said it time and time again, we get so involved in outside groups on both sides of the spectrum, trying to polarize us and pull us away,” Runyan said, though he didn’t go into details. “Those outside groups aren’t elected to govern, but we have members running with them to both extremes, unwillingly to govern, and then they want to point at us when we decide to govern and try to accomplish things, and they call us moderates and we shouldn’t be around. It’s totally counter-intuitive to how this country should be run.”

Both Runyan and Saxton praised MacArthur — who comes to the district with deep pockets from the north Jersey town of Randolph, where he served as councilman and mayor before moving south — as an antidote to that partisan gridlock. MacArthur is a businessman, they said, which means he’s proven himself capable of working with other people. Saxton also said he sees no problem with MacArthur’s out-of-district roots.

“When we first sat down together, I believe it was at the Sage Diner, right down the street from my office, we sat there for about two and a half hours one day over lunch and he was just picking my brain, over his interest level in getting involved, and what it would take, what the pitfalls of the whole thing are,” Runyan said before introducing MacArthur. “And he’s standing next to me today and I’m honored to have endorsed him early on. But the process of growth as a candidate — he’s tackled very well, let’s put it that way.”

When asked how long MacArthur plans on serving in the district, given his predecessor’s short stint, Saxton — who had served in the district since 1984 before announcing his retirement in 2007 — jumped in to add a bit of his own wisdom.

“There are certain realities in Congress. And one of the realities is that you develop seniority,” Saxton said. “And Tom is certainly welcome to limit himself if he wants to, but I’ll tell you what, in the last 10 years that I was in Congress, I accomplished a hundred times more than I did in the first 15. So if we want a long term Congressman to be able to do things like we did at the base during my last 10 years of Congress, then I think it’s probably shortsighted to limit one’s years.”

CD3: In Runyan’s wake, MacArthur says he’ll serve ‘as long as voters will have me’