Click play for audio version of this story
Democratic Assembly candidates have challenged incumbents Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) to sixteen debates – one in each municipality in the competitive 21st district.
“Minority Leader Bramnick, you completely evaded your opponents in 2017, despite finding time to challenge the Speaker and Majority Leader to dog and pony show debates,” said Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman in a letter to Bramnick and Munoz. “Now it’s time for the real thing.”
Mandelblatt and Gunderman also took a shot at Bramnick’s decision to feature himself on a new cable TV ad and at least seven direct mail pieces that don’t include the name of his running mate.
“Since you seem predisposed to leaving Assemblywoman Munoz behind, please bring her along as well,” the Democrats said.
Munoz kept the door open to a debate, but called the move by her Democratic rivals a stunt.
“Our campaign is happy to discuss potential dates and venues,” Munoz told the New Jersey Globe. “In the meantime, Jon and I will continue to speak directly with voters and not honor our opponents unserious stunt of a desperate campaign.
The letter cites several months of speaking with district residents about issues.
“Their concerns are clear and nearly unanimous: from property tax affordability to safe schools for our children, our neighbors want a better community in which to live, work, and ultimately retire,” the Democrats said.
According to Mandelblatt and Gunderman, the 21st district wants legislators who vote differently than Bramnick and Munoz have.
“They want legislators who prioritize affordability for those living on fixed incomes, so they don’t have to choose between paying their property tax bills and choosing which prescription to refill. They want legislators who have the integrity to stand up to the gun lobby that wants to arm teachers instead of supporting common-sense gun violence prevention legislation,” the GOP challengers said. “And they want legislators who care about ensuring that women have access to affordable health care and aren’t treated like second-class citizens.”
“We share their concerns. And we don’t think you do,” said Mandelblatt and Gunderman.
Munoz pushed back on the Democratic campaign message.
“Assemblyman Bramnick and I have been discussing serious issues with constituents for years, which is why we have been endorsed for our bipartisanship and common sense by teachers, police, fighter fighters, labor, nurses and job creators,” the six-term assemblywoman said.
Mandelblatt and Gunderman set a deadline of Saturday for a response to their challenge.
“On the off chance that you decline, please have the courage to state the reason why you don’t believe voters should have an opportunity to see our positions debated in the most convenient and accessible way possible,” the two Democrats wrote. “Our residents deserve nothing less.”
The Democratic proposal for sixteen debates mirrors one issued by Republican Assembly Speaker Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian in his 1994 race for U.S. Senate.
The incumbent, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, called it a “silly challenge.”
“There he goes again. What he wants to discuss is process. I want to discuss the issues,” Lautenberg told The (Bergen) Record at the time.Bramnick Munoz Mandelblatt Gunderman Debate Challenge Letter