D-14 candidates iron out details for debates

Republicans challenge opponents to sign pledge to campaign fairly


Staff Writer

Democratic and Republican Assembly candidates in District 14 have made plans to hold a debate sometime this coming fall. The campaign managers for the respective sides are currently in discussion to work out the logistics of the event.

Last week, Democrats Linda Greenstein and Wayne DeAngelo challenged Republicans Adam Bushman and Tom Goodwin to a debate moderated by the League of Women Voters, a challenge the GOP accepted the same day. While a date has not yet been set, there are tentative plans to hold one in Monroe and another in West Windsor, thus covering the two counties that make up their legislative district.

All four candidates are participants in the Fair and Clean Elections Pilot Project (FACE), and as such they are required to hold at least two debates before the end of October. The first one is to be held between Oct. 1 and 15, while the other must be held between Oct. 16 and 30.

“These public candidate debate forums are a key component of the clean elections program that will give voters a chance to hear directly from us on the issues most important to them,” Greenstein said. “After all, this program is about speaking directly to voters so they can make an informed decision when casting their vote.”

Bushman and Goodwin upped the ante shortly after by challenging the Democrats to sign the Clean Campaign Pledge that they, along with state Senate candidate Bill Baroni, signed last month.

“Of course we look forward to debating Ms. Greenstein and Mr. DeAngelo,” said Goodwin. “This part of the process is important; it is just as important that Ms. Greenstein and Mr. DeAngelo sign the Clean Campaign Pledge written by the League of Women Voters, the same organization who will moderate these debates.”

The pledge the Republicans spoke about was a six-point code of conduct that the signers would follow. Signing it says that one will pledge to conduct the campaign fairly and openly, refrain from defamatory attacks, not appeal to prejudices, not use campaign material that distorts or misrepresents other candidates, and to repudiate candidates who do any of the aforementioned things. Finally, to drive the point home further, signers say they assume personal control and responsibility for the conduct of their campaigns.

Greenstein said she contacted the League’s offices to find out more but discovered that there was no national or state-sanctioned campaign pledge. She urged the League to create an officially sanctioned pledge that she and her running mates could sign.

“As the sponsor of the Fair and Clean Elections law, I am wholeheartedly committed to conducting our campaign with integrity. We hope to have the assistance of the League of Women Voters to develop a pledge that would work hand in hand with the tenets of the New Jersey Clean Elections Law,” Greenstein said.

A search of the New Jersey League’s Web site reveals the text of a sample pledge that the organization suggested local chapters could ask politicians to sign. The Rochester League chapter wrote it in 2000 as part of its Project Positive Campaigning Committee.

“To be honest, that is some old information that was on the Web site. … There were some efforts to develop this sort of thing around the late ’90’s and so there’s some information on the Web site, and I think that was constructed by another league,” said Danzey Burnham, the New Jersey League’s executive director. “But that is on our Web site and something that was developed by, you know, either the national organization or Rochester, New York, a number of years ago.”

DeAngelo said that he and Greenstein would prefer to sign on to a campaign pledge officially sanctioned by the state league chapter and then the debate can get under way.

Libertarian campaign manager Lou Jasikoff feels that his party’s two candidates, Jason Scheurer and Ray Cregle, have been unfairly shut out of the debates, since he had only just recently learned that they were happening at all.

“They are required to keep us in the debates, and if we haven’t been invited in it, we’re going to do a formal complaint to the Clean Elections division that they have not invited us,” Jasikoff said. “If they’re going to debate with each other, we should be there too.”

Meanwhile, Republican Senate candidate Bill Baroni and Democratic opponent Seema Singh also expect to make plans for a debate sometime in the near future.

“I think by next week we should have something out there,” Singh said.

“I’m certainly looking forward to debating Seema,” Baroni said.

District 14 includes Cranbury Township, Hamilton Township, Jamesburg Borough, Monroe Township, Plainsboro Township, South Brunswick Township and West Windsor Township.