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Former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs will challenge Andy Kim in the Third Legislative District.
Former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs , a candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 3rd district..

Richter, Gibbs spar in NJ-3 debate

By Nikita Biryukov, June 16 2020 10:10 pm

Tuesday’s debate between David Richter and Kate Gibbs ran at two speeds. In the first, both Republican House candidates agreed on everything. In the second, they reran every campaign attack leveled since Richter began his congressional campaign.

The conflict started minutes into the roughly hourlong affair, when Gibbs, a former director of Burlington County’s Freeholder Board, expressed remorse over a 14-year old shoplifting charge, a 12-year-old marijuana possession charges and a more-recent charge for drinking on the beach before attacking Richter.

“David Richter continues to grossly exaggerate and flat out lie, and I look forward to setting the record straight tonight,” Gibbs said. “My opponent refuses to own any of his failures, made as an adult, though there are many.”

But the conflict went nowhere, and the candidates spent the next 25 minutes agreeing on every issue.

Both said Gov. Phil Murphy had bungled the state’s response to COVID-19. Both supported legislation that would ban pandemic exclusion clauses in business interruption and healthcare insurance. Both supported another federal stimulus package for New Jersey but said such money would come in exchange for structural reforms.

They also each supported police reforms, the firing of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who fatally held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, but opposed measures that would sharply cut police funding sought by some activists.

And, both supported building a wall along the United States’ southern border.

Later in the debate, the two even agreed on Abortion. Both support parental consent laws and oppose late-term and partial-birth abortions, and each of the candidates had to be pushed to say they did not oppose early trimester abortions, though Richter attempted to talk around the issue.

The two wouldn’t disagree again until Richter attacked Gibbs for raising taxes as a Burlington County freeholder.

“Kate, when she was a freeholder, actually raised taxes. Property taxes in Burlington County went up by $6 million while she was a freeholder,” he said. “She says she cut taxes, but the reality is that she did not.”

Gibbs claimed the county’s tax collections actually fell by half a million dollars over her tenure on the board.

The county collected $161.5 million in tax revenue in 2018, Gibbs’ final year in office. In 2016, her first year there, the county collected $155.5 million in taxes, but the county lowered its open space tax by about $6.4 million in 2018, leading to $432,437 tax drop from when Gibbs first took office.

From there, the two continued to agree on policy issues — including social security and a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — before being asked to defend against political issues raised by their opponents and the press.

Gibbs again expressed remorse over her earlier legal troubles, saying she made mistakes.

Richter, who was given a chance to respond to a question about an attack line frequently used by his campaign, said the incidents suggested Gibbs couldn’t be trusted.

“The issue isn’t of being on the beach or the drugs or the shoplifting individually,” he said. “The problem is, with Kate, it indicates a pattern of reckless disregard for the law.”

Next Richter defended against charges that he was in the third district for no reason other than he wanted a seat in the nation’s capitol.

“Let’s be clear. you’ve been now registered to now vote in four different congressional districts in less than 18 months,” Gibbs said, adding, “You’re just desperate to get a title. You’re an entitled rich guy who’s bored and needs validation and that’s why you’re willing to tear somebody down just so you can have a title.”

The debate was moderated by Save Jersey Editor Matt Rooney and TAPinto Barnegat/Waretown Editor Stephanie Panza Faughnan.

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