Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur and Democratic challenger Andy Kim’s closely watched race simmered in Wednesday’s televised debate over taxes, health care and more but never really boiled over and didn’t focus on President Donald Trump.
The hourlong debate in southern New Jersey’s 3rd District was aired statewide on NJTV from its Newark studios and covered a lot of ground. MacArthur, who’s seeking his third term, and Kim sparred over whether the 2017 GOP tax overhaul helped residents, if health insurance should be available to all, corporate spending in elections and a host of other issues.
Polls show the race is close, though Federal Election Commission records show Kim has raised more cash than MacArthur.
The race has drawn a lot of attention since Democrats think Kim has a chance to oust MacArthur, who has been one of the president’s allies in Congress on taxes and the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Trump’s job approval rating in New Jersey is low.
On health care, MacArthur faulted Kim for speaking broadly about the issue and suggested that he supported a Democratic proposal to provide health care for all.
“If you didn’t’ speak in gauzy generalities all the time and actually gave specific proposals for solving things —you wanted that audience to think you were with them,” MacArthur said.
Kim responded that MacArthur was inaccurately interpreting his words.
“I said I shared the goal of having everybody in this country having health care,” Kim said.
MacArthur gained headlines — and took flack during a town hall — for authoring an amendment that helped House Republicans pass legislation rolling back the Affordable Care Act. The bill never passed the Senate, but Kim has said MacArthur’s involvement spurred him to run.
On taxes, MacArthur said a 2017 tax overhaul that he voted for was good for the economy and said he doesn’t “understand why my opponent thinks the sky is falling.”
In response, Kim said he faulted MacArthur for siding with Republican leadership, instead of the state. The tax law capped state and property tax deductions at $10,000, a big deal in New Jersey where property taxes are considered among the highest in the country.
MacArthur then questioned whether Kim thought leadership amounted to doing what others did, since the state’s delegation opposed the tax overhaul.
Kim, who has foresworn corporate political action committee donations, said he was proud of the decision and faulted MacArthur for not doing the same. MacArthur attacked Kim for accepting donations from Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democrat seeking re-election in a tough fight at the top of the ticket.
At one point, MacArthur accused Kim of “puffing up” his resume by making it sound like his work as a national security expert in the Obama administration went beyond what he actually had done, but Kim said he was proud of the work he did.
Kim is a former national security aide in Barack Obama’s White House.
Election Day is Nov. 6.
The district stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs along the Delaware River in Burlington County across the Pinelands to Ocean County, which is in the New York media market. The district has previously voted for Obama, and in 2016 supported Trump.