On a dreary evening yesterday some 150 people crammed into the Bergen County Freeholders chambers. The event was the final debate for the position of Bergen County Executive between one-term incumbent Republican Kathe Donovan and challenger Democrat Jim Tedesco. Most conspicuous were Tedesco supporters who wore his name on their T-shirts. Applauding during the debate was disallowed. The two candidates rotated in first answering each question, and the opponent responded, but further rebuttal was not permitted.
Unlike other debates where candidates hue toward the middle and tend to agree with each other, this 90-minute event revealed sharp differences between the opponents. In opening remarks Donovan spoke in a brusque, business-like tone about how she was holding down tax increases, while Tedesco appeared warmer and more open, welcoming the audience to “the people’s house.”
Much of the evening reflected the standard cleavage between Republican and Democratic philosophy. Donovan emphasized how she has cut the budget, and when asked about future initiatives, she said, “You have to understand no government has money today.” Tedesco had stated that he would try with help from NJ’s federal legislators to convert part of the Bergen County Medical Center into a VA ancillary facility. He explained the funding would largely be federal.
There were sharp disagreements over the future of the medical center, merger of the police and sheriff departments, the county’s purchase of military vehicles, sharing services, use of trust funds, affordable housing and more. For additional coverage go here and here.
Although there were no knock-out punches, there were ample differences between the Democratic and Republican positions. Donovan, frequently embroiled in law suits, has had four years to make her case, but Tedesco has come through strong in the last two months. With an effective GOTV Democratic effort resulting in high turnout, Tedesco has the potential to unseat the incumbent and become the next Bergen County Executive.