In the contentious race for New Jersey’s third congressional district, most of the mud has been slung via TV attack ads.
Last night candidates, Aimee Belgard (Democrat) and Tom MacArthur (Republican), traded zingers at their first debate in Burlington County.
The League of Women Voters forum revealed the places where the candidates share common ground. That includes what they both described as a “tough, but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and deportation for those who commit crimes.
But even in those moments, MacArthur, consistently found ways to jab at his opponent.
“If you go to Ms. Belgard’s website, you won’t find the word ‘immigration’ as of yesterday,” he said. “The word is not even on her website. She just gave you my position from my website.”
The candidates both argued for boosting the economy by helping small businesses and for continued reforms following the scandal at the Veterans Affairs health centers.
They clashed most directly over the federal Affordable Care Act. MacArthur, a former insurance company CEO, wants to repeal the law.
Belgard, who’s a Burlington County Freeholder, disagrees.
“What I’m hearing is exactly what’s wrong in Congress right now where it’s black or white,” she said. “It’s keep it or repeal it and I think that’s exactly what’s wrong. There is another solution here.”
The most recent poll shows Belgard and MacArthur in a dead heat, fighting for about 13 percent of voters who remain undecided. They’re vying for the seat being vacated by Republican Jon Runyan.
With the exception of one term when the seat recently was held by Democrat John Adler, the district has been a Republican stronghold since the turn of the 20th century.