Seth Grossman made no attempt to pull in moderates during a debate with State Sen. Jeff Van Drew Wednesday evening.
During the tense-hour-long event that included occasionally-heated exchanges over topics like immigration and taxes, Grossman reiterated support for President Donald Trump and his policies while Van Drew walked the moderate line so tightly it would have been difficult to tell which party he belonged to had his party affiliation not appeared in a chyron at the start of the event.
“What kind of America do we want to see in the future? Do we want to bring people together ? Do we want our news to look like a reality TV show every night?” Van Drew said in his opening statement.
Grossman started his by saying he was running to offer Trump an ally in the House.
Debate strategies became apparent with the first question. Van Drew, who has served in the legislature since 2002, largely focused on policy, though the answers were about as specific as one might expect from a televised debate.
Grossman opted for a more aggressive strategy. Answering a question about economic development in the district, Grossman blamed policies implemented by state legislators like Van Drew for stymieing growth he credited to policies implemented by the Trump administration.
“We can’t bribe businesses to come to New Jersey with these crumbling roads, high taxes and nothing good here,” Grossman said. “And when you give someone a tax break, you’re making taxes higher for everybody else, but that’s not much congress can do about that, that’s what Mr. Van Drew and his Trenton politicians have been doing.”
What followed became something of a pattern in the debate. In his answer, Grossman had implied Van Drew supported a number of tax hikes the right-of-center Democrat had voted against, including the gas tax hike implemented under Gov. Chris Christie and the recent hike to the corporate business tax passed as part of the state’s budget earlier this year.
Van Drew spent his rebuttal contesting those claims and was forced to spend part of his answer to the next question combating the same when Grossman repeated the charge in a 30-second response to the senator’s rebuttal.
“So, let me start by saying, just as an aside, we owe all of you honest answers. Mr. Grossman, we owe them honest answers,” Van Drew said during the minute he was provided to answer a question about immigration. “You know, and I know, and hopefully they know, that many of those taxes – just about all of those taxes, particularly the gas tax – I never voted for, period.”
That question on immigration provided the debate’s next issue, one that would come up again several times throughout the remainder of the debate.
Grossman’s views on the issue fell largely in line with Trump’s while Van Drew provided a more moderate response that focused on reformation reform instead of the hardliner stance adopted by the president’s administration.
The spat over immigration consumed nearly all the time the candidates were given to respond to a question about climate change.
“I think if we started immigration laws, like they do in every country in the world – could you imagine crossing the border into North Korea then asking for food stamps and a driver’s license?” Grossman said. “I don’t think that would happen, so If we started identifying who’s here legally and no legally, law enforcement could deal with that problem and then we could get rid of the dangerous people and also people who may mean well but they’re clogging up our schools, our hospitals, our prisons and we just can’t afford to do this anymore.”
The issue came up again at different times during the debate, including during a question about healthcare.
“Mr. Grossman talked about people trying to talk about people trying to sneak into North Korea,” Van Drew said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”