Home>Highlight>LD39 candidates trade barbs over debate

Governor Chris Christie addresses a Joint Special Session of the New Jersey Legislature to call for bipartisanship and cooperation to cap property taxes in the Assembly Chambers at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Thursday, July 1, 2010. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

LD39 candidates trade barbs over debate

Each side claims the other is misrepresenting rival positions

By Nikita Biryukov, October 29 2019 6:30 pm

Assembly candidates in the 39th district claimed their opponents are distorting the facts, with Democrats claiming Republican incumbents are misrepresenting their record and Republicans claiming Democrats are twisting their words.

“Gerry and I have made our positions on the issues very clear, both at last night’s forum and throughout this campaign,” Westwood Mayor John Birkner said. “Our opponents, on the other hand, seemed ashamed to stand up for their own voting records. On the critical issue of women’s rights, Assemblywoman Schepisi actually said ‘I am pro-choice and I am also pro-life.’”

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi told the New Jersey Globe she supports the rights of others to seek an abortion but previously chose not to get an abortion when faced with a difficult situation.

“When I was five and a half months pregnant with my daughter, I was told to abort her. I told a very personal story about the struggle that my husband and I went through in having to make a decision on whether or not we terminated our daughter, who ended up coming out and being an amazing 16-year-old girl now, who is phenomenal,” Schepisi said. “I said because of my own personal experiences, I would never put that on to somebody else, so for them to use it is unconscionable and speaks to the absolute lack of integrity that those two people have.”

The Democrats attacked Assemblyman Bob Auth’s record on guns, saying he was attempting to re-frame a hardline anti-gun control stance.

“Assemblyman Auth claimed that he thinks our gun safety laws in New Jersey are perfect ‘just the way they are’ despite the fact that he voted against many of those same laws and continues to be endorsed by the NRA, which wants to overturn those laws,” Birkner said.

While Auth has historically opposed gun-control measures that came to a vote on the Assembly floor, he hasn’t done so universally.

Last March, Auth voted yes on bills requiring background checks for all gun purchases, allowing authorities to confiscate firearms in certain cases and permitting residents to file for extreme risk protective orders that prohibit others from possessing a firearm.

That month, he also voted against bills that increase the bar to obtain carry permits and lowering the maximum legal magazine capacity to 10 rounds, a vote he repeated this June.

Auth was not present for votes on eight gun bills that came before the Assembly during a later June session.

He said that Birkner and his running mate, Emerson Council President Gerald Falotico, were taking his responses out of context.

“John and Gerry can cherry pick a few words out of context to fit in a cookie cutter press release, but they cannot hide the fact that they have no real plan to fix the problems facing New Jersey,” Auth said. “While Holly and I demonstrated a clear knowledge of the issues, our opponents resorted to simply reading pre-prepared statements provided by radical Trenton special interests — something a child could do.”

The League of Women Voters bars candidates from using its name, footage or any other debate materials for campaign purposes, though it’s unclear whether campaign press releases fall under that umbrella.

The debate contract Birkner and Falotico signed with the league Monday does not mention press releases, though it does forbid using debate materials in “advertising of any kind.”

“We heard a clear contrast in last night’s debate,” Falotico said. “Our opponents just want to blame and complain about problems they’ve had plenty of time in the Assembly to address but about which they’ve done nothing. John and I have a forward-looking approach that’s about solving problems, not just complaining about them and passing the blame to someone else.”

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