New Jersey Congressional District 5 representative Scott Garrett will face off against Democratic challenger Josh Gottheimer in at least one debate before Election Day on November 8. Both men have accepted an invitation from WRNJ Radio in Hackettstown, New Jersey. The debate will be broadcast at 11 a.m. on October 31.
While the two men will face one another in late October, in June, Gottheimer sent a letter to Garrett suggesting that the two men engage in five public debates ahead of the election. So far, only the WRNJ debate will be attended by both.
On Wednesday, Garrett issued a statement that, in addition to the WRNJ event, he would be partaking in an October 27 debate with Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of from Congregation Bnai Yeshurun. Also on Wednesday, Gottheimer released a statement that he would be attending a debate on October 27. However, Gottheimer’s statement said he would be attending an event hosted by the League of Women Voters.
According to Garrett’s campaign, by accepting the League of Women Voters invitation over Rabbi Pruzansky’s invitation, Gottheimer is not meeting his initial statement that he would debate the congressman willingly. However, according to Gottheimer’s campaign, the League of Women Voter’s invitation was received the day before Rabbi Pruzansky’s invitation.
When contacted about the two debate discrepancies, Garrett’s campaign released the following statement: “Josh Gottheimer said he would debate Congressman Garrett on any date. Congressman Garrett announced the two debate invitations he accepted, and then Josh Gottheimer accepted a competing invitation in response to our press release announcement. If Josh Gottheimer is truly interested in debating the Congressman, why would he accept a competing invitation?”
Pruzansky has often found himself at the center of controversy due to posts on his blog considered to downplay issues like campus rape culture and statements about Arabs and other groups. Despite the controversy surrounding Pruzansky, Gottheimer said he would likely attend a debate hosted by Congregation Bnai Yeshurun if a new date was scheduled to comply with the League of Women Voters. The League is a non-partisan political organization.
In Gottheimer’s release, the candidate also mentions two other debates he agreed to: one to be held on an undetermined date at Fairleigh Dickinson University and one on September 19 at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center.
According to Garrett’s campaign, they never received an invitation to an FDU debate. However, Matthew J. Dikovics. Director Government and Community Affairs at FDU, said that he reached out to both Garrett and Gottheimer via phone on Wednesday but did not receive a response from Garrett’s office.
Garrett’s team said he was unable to attend the September 19 debate because of an unspecified scheduling conflict. His campaign said: “…because Congress is in session that week, his schedule is limited in the district and he’s already booked that night.” There will be no votes held on September 19 but congress will be in session from the 20 through the 23.
“We hope that this year the Congressman will agree to debates conducted by neutral parties, such as those at Farleigh Dickinson, the League of Women Voters and the Fair Lawn Jewish Center,” Gottheimer said in a statement.
Following the publication of this piece, Gottheimer released a statement criticizing Garrett for his lack of participation in the FDU, Fair Lawn and League of Women voters debates. Gottheimer claimed that those events will provide neutral forums for debate.
“You would think Scott Garrett would want the chance to defend his record,” said Gottheimer, “but then again it’s hard to defend bigotry.”