LD-7 Legislative Debate

What a difference a venue makes. When I covered the LD-16 legislative debate in Princeton a few weeks ago, they embraced transparency and allowed audio and video recording. At tonight’s LD-7 debate, no such recording was allowed. Both debates were run by the League of Women Voters, but I have a hunch that tonight’s no-recording policy was determined by the candidates of one of the parties. So I’ll have to report the old fashioned way, by using words instead of electrons.

Driving up to the school in Moorestown where the debate was being held, I was amazed to see the lawn littered with the GOP’s Orwellian yard signs on school property. The debate itself was very predictable with few surprises, and the Burlington County Times’ Dave Levinsky’s article summarizes it pretty well.


On the Democratic side, we have two highly intelligent centrists running for Assembly – incumbent Dr. Herb Conaway and newcomer Troy Singleton. Every time I hear Singleton speak, he impresses me more and more. He has a calming temperament that would bring much-needed comity to the State House and is amazingly well-grounded in the complex issues of government – more so than any non-incumbent I have observed over this election cycle. This is no surprise, as Singleton was former Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts’ chief of staff and is one of the smartest candidates I have run into.

The understatement of the evening belonged to Herb Conaway who observed “If you would start from the beginning, you would never organize the state the way it is today.” Conaway voted with the South Jersey Democrats to support Governor Christie’s pension/benefit “reform”, but in conservative Burlington County Conaway is about as far to the left as you can go without falling off the cliff.

That’s the problem Beverly Mayor and activist Gail Cook will face in her run for the Senate against the popular and formerly moderate Republican Diane Allen. Over the course of the campaign, Cook has found her groove, is more comfortable addressing large crowds about a multitude of issues, but her election is a long shot. While Allen now speaks from both sides of her mouth, simultaneously espousing her support for women’s health care and vigorously defending her actions to kill it, the former television personality has the most name recognition of any of the six legislative candidates.

The most telling quote of the debate came from Mount Laurel GOP Mayor Jim Keenan when discussing taxes opined that “anyone who works for a living is in the middle class.” This demonstrates how out of touch Keenan is with reality. Keenan seems like an intelligent version of Jon Runyan – someone who memorizes all the talking points and is able to cough them up on demand, but is bereft of original ideas.

Then there’s Republican businessman Chris Halgas. Halgas is a one trick pony who sees everything through a single lens – cut taxes on business and everything will be OK. He was able to inject plugs for his various local businesses several times, so the free advertising should help him.

Not unexpectedly, there were as many areas of agreement as there were areas of disagreement. In response to a high schooler who was part of the panel of questioners, all candidates agreed that Kyleigh’s Law, which requires decals on the license plates of younger drivers, had unintended detrimental consequences. And all agreed that we should move forward slowly on charter schools. Disappointingly, none of the Democrats brought up how Christie’s privatization of schools will line the pockets of his benefactors.

So the debate was predictable – I could have written the script beforehand and it would have been pretty accurate. But if the hundred or so citizens of the district who were in attendance came with an open mind, it will serve to solidify the Democratic majority in the legislature.

Comments (6)

  1. Hopeful

    Do teens really use the decals? I’ve never noticed one, and I do wonder since I’ve heard so many politicians talk about them.  

  2. joeynovick

    Let’s see. The meeting is taking place in a school, which is a public building paid for with taxpayer dollars. The event is a debate between candidates running for public office, who also will be paid with tax payer dollars. They will be debating issues which will have an impact on your wallet. And considering who the League of women Voters are, and how one of their key prime activities is non partisan debate hosting, combined with the very recent njsc decision in FAIR SHARE HOUSING CENTER, INC. v. NEW JERSEY STATE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES,   I’d say a good case can be made that you just had your civil liberty violated, and that open public meetings act was violated. There are good arguments on both sides, but I think the courts would entertain a very open and transparent view on matter.  

  3. southernbluedog

    And if they don’t use the decals, I can guarantee you the police generally have more important things to worry about.

    But anyone who voted in favor of Kyleigh’s Law who didn’t realize there would be detrimental consequences shouldn’t be in the legislature. I say that facetiously, but I’m pretty sure there were hearings on the bill and some of those consequences were discussed.

  4. deciminyan (Post author)

    I arrived early and set up my camera and tripod, making sure it was not in a position to block the audience view. It was probably there for about 10-15 minutes, in clear view of the LWV organizers. But then, one of the GOP candidates (who knows I write for this blog) started railing at me, telling me that the ground rules were “no video” and shortly thereafter the LWV organizers came by. They said they were concerned that any videos posted would be “out of context”. I told them that if that’s the case, I would post the entire debate, unedited. They were polite but insistent. I did not want to make a fuss, so I put away the camera.

    This is the same Mount Laurel GOP that removed all of the yard signs I posted on some of the medians in town, while retaining the Orwellian GOP signs there.

  5. Jeff Gardner

    A debate without video (is there no local access cable channel?) is no debate. Nearly 100% of the attendees at the debate itself are partisans for one or the other camp. If the debate can’t be seen outside the room, it may as well not have happened.  

  6. Bertin Lefkovic

    …before cable TV and the internet?

    Saying “If the debate can’t be seen outside the room, it may as well not have happened” discredits the reporting of deciminyan and anyone from the print media who might have been in attendance as well as any undecided voters who took time out of their busy lives to attend the debate.

    Of course, the debate should have been broadcast on some sort of local cable entity, but I don’t think that it is fair to say that debates can or should only occur if they are recorded and rebroadcasted through some form of mass media.

    At some point, citizens have to be required to engage the democratic process.  They cannot expect everything to be done for them.  I would prefer a campaign where the candidates held an unrecorded and unrebroadcasted debate in every town in a district than one where they hold one recorded and rebroadcasted debate.

    The more that we allow our democracy to be filtered, packaged, and processed, the less democratic it is going to be.


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