A week ago, Bill Hughes’ campaign issued a challenge to Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who has been the congressman in New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district for nearly 20 years. Hughes, the Democratic candidate, invited him to a series of eight debates around the district.
Hughes’ campaign manager Keith Rosendahl says LoBiondo’s campaign never answered, so now they’re throwing a ‘debate clock’ into their website. It’s not unusual for an upstart campaign to pressure a comfy incumbent to defend his voting record, or for the incumbent to ignore until damn good and ready. And no, I don’t think Hughes is ever going to get 8 debates out of LoBiondo. LoBo’d never expose himself that way. Incumbents rarely do (though if they had balls, they should welcome the chance).
What is noteworthy is how long it’s been since LoBiondo said Yes to a debate: 2,094 days. In 2008 – 3 cycles ago – when he debated Dem David Kurkowski. That was on the campus of Stockton College, sponsored by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. The Center’s named for Bill Hughes’ father, the former congressman and ambassador who held the House seat for 20 years (1974-1995) before LoBiondo.
LoBiondo ran against the senior Hughes twice, and was clobbered by Hughes senior in 1992. But 1994 was the year of the so-called Republican Revolution, when Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay helped sweep in a whole herd of young, eager beaver, Reagan-worshipping Republicans. The Contract for America, the neocon surge.
That all seems rather outdated. Doesn’t it?
Frankly, there’s plenty to debate and I don’t think even LoBiondo should be allowed to float by this on a lazy river of complacent incumbency. Atlantic City casinos are dropping like flies, and soon 20% of the casino workforce will be jobless. Regional unemployment is 12.6%, says Hughes. He sure wants to talk about that. LoBiondo should address it too. And not only Democrats but all the voters of CD02 deserve that discussion, including Republicans that have voted for LoBiondo in the past.