South Jersey’s Third Congressional District is the closest race in the Garden State. It’s a David versus Goliath struggle, but which candidatefits each role depends on whether you’re talking political clout or physical stature.
John Adler is the first-term congressman from the district that covers most of Burlington and Ocean counties as well as Cherry Hill in Camden County. He has a long winning track record in politics, but this time around his opponent is former Philadelphia Eagle John Runyan. The question is, in a battle of wits and politics who is the best armed opponent.
In one corner you have Adler, who ran a family business, became a lawyer and then rose through the traditional political ranks, becoming a congressman two years ago after being a state senator for 17 years. He’s the first Democrat to represent the district since the 1880s. In the other corner, John Runyan, the son of a automobile worker who played football at the University of Michigan before becoming an Eagle’s offensive tackle. Recently, Jon studied Entrepreneurial Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
The two have faced off in several debates. During one at Ponzio’s diner, Adler was asked if he was a political insider.
“I think some people of both parties like to blame the other party I think in my brief time in Washington I’ve worked very hard to be bi-partisan. My votes have been sometimes with the Democrats sometimes against the Democrats, what is right for my district for my state and for our great country, so I don’t think that is a great characterization.”
Runyan is trying to paint himself as the outsider who will care for small business owners and people struggling to find work.
“Congressman Adler has been in politics for 21 years and has had a lot of interaction with whether it is special interest or people who have helped him climbed the political ladder. That kind of shows itself when you look at the healthcare legislation that was passed. How many favors and deals were put out there to buy votes and take care of other people.”
The healthcare legislation is a major difference between the two men. Adler voted against the healthcare reform bill, but says he would have voted for reform if it had done more to contain costs.
“I stood up and said no from the beginning and tried to fix it to make it work for business for families for the future generations of our country.”
Runyan is completely against it saying Adler has made a strategic move to the center.
“He does realize though that this is a moderate to conservative district that’s how the makeup is and he’s trying to run to that to be re-elected and that’s what I truly think is wrong with politics.”
Both candidates have had their difficulties during the race. Adler has admitted that some of his people have helped a Tea Party candidate get into the race, but he says that assistance is over. Adler criticizes Runyan for keeping donkeys on his property to receive a farm tax break.
“It’s a suggestion that John wants to play by a separate set of rules that no one else can play by. He likes tax loopholes for himself and for companies that are shipping jobs overseas.”
“He’s attacking me for living by the laws of the state of New Jersey. It is backed by the farm bureau there is a process you have to go through every year to file it and I did not devise the scheme.”
Polls say the race is very close at this point, with both men saying they have plenty of campaigning to do in the final days before the first voting booth is ready to have a vote cast.
Runyan says people should think about the current economy when making their final decision.
“I truly think ultimately this all comes down to spending and controlling the budget here in the United States, we have to take a serious attempt at that and I think when you look at the contrast between myself and what Congressman Adler has done in his career of raising taxes and spending more money and raising them again and spending more you have to get away from that and you have to change that direction.”
Adler says he is a person who wants to build bridges and his opponent doesn’t.
“My sense that Mr Runyan likes to criticize and doesn’t really have good answers to solve some complex problems facing our country. I’m afraid that he will be one of those people on the right wing that goes to Washington to attack rather than to solve problems. My brief time in Washington shows that I want to work with people of both parties to solve the problems facing our country.”
If Adler manages to hold on to the seat, it would be remarkable given the district’s long Republican history and this year’s GOP surge.