Photo of Tim Alexander (L) and Jeff Van Drew by Meredith Winner, Mer-Made Photography
BY EMILY HAMILTON | For AC JosepH Media
GALLOWAY — Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew and Democratic challenger Tim Alexander took different roads on most of the issues during their only head-on debate Wednesday (Oct. 19) at Stockton University, drawing a sharp dividing line for voters.
Van Drew, the former state legislator who originally won the seat as a Democrat in 2018, made national headlines when he switched parties during former President Donald Trump’s impeachment and won his support. Alexander, a former law enforcement officer, is looking to become the first person of color to represent the district.
The differences were set early, with Van Drew attempting to tie Alexander to the current administration under President Joe Biden while Alexander referred to Van Drew supporters as “MAGA Republicans,” a reference to Trump supporters.
With control of Congress hanging by razor-thin edges, the seat would decided what party controls the body nationally for the next two years.
Each candidate had different views on issues from renewable energy, voter fraud, parental control in education, the Jan. 6 committee hearings, and women’s reproductive rights. Although the candidates did not have aligning views on many of the topics, there were moments when their views did align in terms of reaching bipartisan agreements.
On New Jersey’s investments in renewable energy, specifically, wind turbines, Alexander said he favored alternatives to fossil fuels and wanted to work in a bipartisan manner to come up with a plan.
“I’m also in favor of investing in companies that are willing to build and manufacture those [alternative energy resources] devices,” said Alexander.
Van Drew said while he understands that renewable energy is important, he believes wind turbines are bad for the environment, tourism, and fishing industry. He feels that wind farms built off the shores of Atlantic and Cape May counties would drastically affect these areas within the southern New Jersey communities.
“Renewable energy is important, but it’s also important we don’t hurt the people who live here and work here,” said Van Drew.
Van Drew was also confronted with the question of why he would not certify the 2020 presidential election results, and if he believes Joe Biden is the legitimate president.
“I sure wish he wasn’t our president,” Van Drew led with. “In two years, we’ve had more problems than we could have ever imagined. The gas prices, inflation, the increase in crime which is up 40%, what has happened to our borders, the illegals that are coming in [consist of] over 100 people on the terrorist watch list…” Van Drew said.
“As far as why I brought up the certifying [it’s] because it was important all throughout this country people received multiple ballots, people that were passed away received ballots, people living in other states, and other counties received ballots and I thought that had to be brought to light,” Van Drew said.
As a follow-up question, Van Drew was asked if he would vote the same way today now that the Jan. 6 committee has begun wrapping up its investigation.
“The January 6th committee has been an abomination,” said Van Drew. “The January 6th committee was supposed to be bipartisan. Bipartisan means you would elect half the people to be appointed from the Republican’s side…and half from the Democrat side…,” Van Drew explained.
Van Drew goes on to explain that the committee was put together only by the Democratic leaders and that there’s nothing bipartisan about this committee.
Alexander had time to comment on Van Drew’s statements about certifying the 2020 election results and his views on the Jan. 6 committee while also answering a question about the dangers of losing democracy as a tactic to rally the base or not.
“This is about democracy versus MAGA and that MAGA wants to destroy democracy…” Alexander said. “When you hear the rhetoric [about] the election being stolen and the bipartisan committee not being bipartisan because the two republicans participating are not MAGA Republicans, that is why we have this urgent need to elect Democrats to preserve the house so we can preserve our country,” Alexander said.
Van Drew said he believes that we are at the edge of whether or not we are going to save America despite all of the issues at hand from border control and crime to inflation. “This is not the America we know and love,” Van Drew said.
Issues of immigration in America were brought to question about which policies the candidates support in terms of citizenship from the border to Dreamers.
“We’re in a disastrous position today,” Van Drew said. “…there are people coming across who are sick, people are coming across in drug cartels… Not only that there are people on the terrorist watch list, not only that these people are being flown around all around the country being relocated by our government and your tax dollars,” Van Drew said.
“Clearly facts matter, so let me give you some facts,” Alexander refuted. He notes our biggest issue with our immigration policies is our visa programs which he wants to sit down with other congressional leaders to reform and talk about. Adding those negative connotations about the border are incorrect and fueled by racial discrimination and stereotypes.
“If anybody is here on a watch list and we know about it then we must have arrested them, otherwise we wouldn’t know about them, therefore, facts matter,” Alexander said in response to Van Drew’s comments about hundreds of watch list individuals crossing the border.
Both candidates can agree that there should be a system in place for a path to citizenship in which people learn about America.
Alexander and Van Drew were asked about their stance and support for women’s reproductive rights in terms of abortion access and a federal abortion ban
“I will never support a ban on a woman’s rights,” Alexander said. “I’m a man. I will never have to face that hard choice that women must make when they decide they want to terminate a pregnancy, or should they terminate a pregnancy,” Alexander said.
His biggest issue with abortion, specifically the Dobbs decision, is that this decision says that women are lesser than and not afforded the full protection of the constitution. Now state governments dictate abortion access, and Alexander vows to keep fighting for women and their rights under the constitution.
“Personally I’m Pro-Life, but it’s more than that. What this is also about is what’s going on in many areas as far as abortion not being in the first few months,” Van Drew said. “There are many people out there, and many people in our country who actually believe abortion should be allowed in the first few months, but do not believe it should be all the way to nine months,” Van Drew said.
The Dobbs decision also drew the question about the reversal of gay rights and marriage a major concern for many with even the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Van Drew understands that the issues are done when upheld and decided by the Supreme Court, so he has no reason to disrespect the court in its decision.
Alexander disagrees with this because he feels that when the Supreme Court isn’t upholding the constitution to the highest standards then the court should be criticized. He feels it isn’t about being respectful, it’s about upholding the constitution.
The candidates were posed with questions about their opinions and stances on the banned teachings of gender issues, sexuality, racial history, and controversial books in terms of finding a middle ground in educational rights.
“I believe we should teach about our great African American heroes, and our great white heroes, and our great Asian heroes, and our great men and great women, all of them,” Van Drew said. Don’t distort history and change it just to get your woke type of philosophy across.”
“It is absolutely wrong to assume that sexual identity is a choice, it is not, it’s who you are,” Alexander said. “The movement was to teach actual history, real history, complete history. Not the white-washed history we’ve been all taught, everyone in this room and beyond…”
Both candidates differed on the source of inflation and how inflation during the Biden administration has been handled. This also led to the candidates splitting on the spending of oil, and the Ukraine-Russian war which America has not put boots on the ground, but has funded in efforts to help Ukraine.
Alexander was asked one-on-one about Van Drew’s use of the term “woke” in two of his responses during the debate.
“Let’s talk about the origins of the term “woke.” That was Lead Belly, a musician in the early part of the 20th century, who said to other African American musicians ‘hey be woke out there,’ because it was very difficult for them playing in the Jim Crow South, and they had to be aware of danger,” Alexander said.
“Somehow, and this is why another argument for teaching full history in our classrooms, the MAGA Republicans have adopted that as a way of saying some kind of pejorative and it’s an insult because you’re taking a part of African American history and making it into a pejorative,” Alexander explained.
“This is the problem right, Mr. Van Drew didn’t understand that he had blown a dog whistle…When you say, ‘woke agenda’, you’re literally saying that our history is meaningless and appropriating it for your own use,” Alexander said.
Tuesday, Nov. 8 is election day this year, and midterm elections are approaching fast. This debate can be found online at https://stockton.edu/hughes-center/, and both candidates provide websites detailing their stances on a wide range of issues.
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