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Rep. Andy Kim. Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Kim says voters should consider gun issues in Assembly race

Freshman congressman declines to criticize Stanfield, but said candidates should be held accountable

By Nikita Biryukov, September 04 2019 7:42 pm

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Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) declined to say whether voters should rebuke former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield’s bid for the eighth legislative district’s Assembly seat over her record on guns Wednesday.

“I haven’t gone through what her record is on these issues, so I don’t feel like I’m in a position to be able to respond on that front,” Kim said. “That is up to the constituents of that district to decide whether or not she is somebody, or anybody who is running, to be able to be determined.”

Stanfield, who is running to keep the Assembly seat currently held by Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham), received a 93% rating from the National Rifle Association this year.

The district is set to host one of the year’s most competitive races.

Democrats almost flipped the eighth in 2017, when Howarth beat Mary Ann Merlino by 645 votes and Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) won a first term over former Freeholder Joanne Schwartz by just 350 votes. Howarth ran 170 votes ahead of Peters that year.

Democrats are fielding Gina LaPlaca, a former Assembly staffer, and Mark Natale, an Evesham district leader, against Peters and Stanfield.

Howarth lost an off-the-line primary bid after being losing the support of the Burlington County Republicans over a belief that he attempted to join State Sen. Dawn Addiego when she defected to the Democratic party earlier this year.

The assemblyman denies having attempted to jump ship.

Kim’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question during a roundtable on gun violence hosted with members of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots group seeking to end gun violence.

Despite his hedging on how Stanfield’s record on guns ought to affect her election prospects, Kim said he hoped voters would take consider Stanfield’s stance on guns before casting their votes in November.

“I think that’s exactly the kind of accountability we need to be talking about, that it’s important to be a transparent about what our leaders and community leaders at all levels are working on, and, hopefully, voters will look in on those and see whether that reflects their values,” Kim said.

A spate of mass shootings beginning with a February 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead and 17 others injured has brought a renewed wave of gun control activism.

A bill requiring universal background checks was among the first passed after Kim’s class of Congressional freshman took office earlier this year.

“This is an important moment for all of us, and I think we really see across the board voters across Burlington County, Ocean County, across New Jersey, across this country just focused in on politics, focused in on their leaders, focused in on elections and voting in ways I certainly haven’t seen before in my lifetime,” Kim said. “And I think that energy will hopefully continue to push us forward in a better direction.”

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