Ferguson-Brozak race mirrors sharp presidential divide

Republican incumbent and Democratic challenger hold divergent views on Iraq, the economy, stem-cell research and abortion.

By: Jill Matthews
   On the issues — ranging from tax cuts for economic growth to abortion — the Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 7th Congressional District offer starkly different opinions.
   Republican Michael Ferguson, an incumbent seeking his fourth term, and Democratic challenger Steve Brozak, a political newcomer, met with The Packet’s editorial board Monday.
   Montgomery and Rocky Hill are part of the 7th District, which covers parts of four counties — Somerset, Hunterdon, Union and Middlesex.
   Rep. Ferguson, who voted to allow the president authorization to invade Iraq, said he thought there were substantial and good reasons for taking Saddam Hussein out of power. Although he termed it "unfortunate" the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was wrong, Rep. Ferguson said he would still have voted the same way.
   Saddam Hussein had clear links to terrorism, Rep. Ferguson said, though he said he was not linking the Iraqi leader to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
   "I think there have been enormous benefits, including the disarming of Libya and that regime, which have come from the removal of Saddam," said Rep. Ferguson.
   Mr. Brozak said he would also have voted to authorize force in Iraq and also to make sure troops were funded properly. While Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, the United States has replaced it with "chaos" because of improper planning by members of Congress who are not knowledgeable enough on the issue, he said. But, Mr. Brozak said, as a retired Marine with more than 20 years of service, he would have known to ask the right questions and be an advocate to ensure a proper plan was in place and troops were properly equipped.
   "Unfortunately, in going after Iraq we didn’t have the minimum of preparation, we didn’t have enough troops, we didn’t have an appropriate plan," said Mr. Brozak.
   On the economy, Rep. Ferguson said the quickest way to hurt job production is to kill the engine that is creating new jobs, particularly small businesses, by raising taxes. He also said he was not in favor of balancing the budget by raising taxes, and that he has voted to give citizens tax relief.
   "I think one of the reasons we’ve come out of the recession and we will continue to grow and continue to create jobs the way we need to, is because we’ve lowered taxes," said Rep. Ferguson.
   Mr. Brozak offered a different view on the economy and ways to keep it strong.
   "Unfortunately, there has been no economic recovery," said Mr. Brozak. "Unfortunately, this is the first administration since the Great Depression that has actually had a net loss in jobs."
   Mr. Brozak said he would roll back tax cuts on people earning more than $500,000 a year, would encourage companies not to outsource jobs and would seek more tax revenue from corporations that send jobs overseas.
   Calling himself a "huge advocate" of stem-cell research, Rep. Ferguson said he supports adult-stem cell research but does not support using taxpayer money to destroy embryonic stem cells. In addition, he said most researchers have told him that embryonic stem-cell research was not especially promising.
   "Why not spend money on what works?" he asked.
   Mr. Brozak said he has been involved in stem-cell research for the past 10 years and that he has been an advocate for it. "It holds a singular promise to new drug discoveries, to new cures that are debilitating," he said. "Unfortunately, with the position that my opponent has endorsed, stem-cell research has pretty much atrophied in the past few years."
   On abortion, Rep. Ferguson said he is "pro-life" and believes it is an issue of one’s conscience and moral perspective.
   "I’ve been crystal clear in my voting and my rhetoric that I believe human life is precious and I am going to vote in a pro-life way," said Mr. Ferguson.
   Mr. Brozak said a woman should have the right to choose.
   The two candidates will be present at a candidates’ forum 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Raritan Valley Community College in North Branch. The forum is sponsored by the Hunterdon County League of Women Voters and is open to the public.