GOP State Senate candidate Michael Pappas is battling Covid and won’t be able to take part in a debate set for Sunday night with Democrat Andrew Zwicker.
“The past few days my wife and I have been quite ill,” Pappas said on today in an email to Zwicker. “It has become apparent that I will regretfully not be able to join you Sunday night.”
The debate for an open Senate seat in the politically competitive 16th district was set up to be a conversation between Pappas and Zwicker with limited moderation, akin to one used on television’s The West Wing.
“I am truly excited for the New Jersey Globe debate, “said Pappas, a former Republican congressman. “I think the open conversation format will give the people of the 16th legislative district incredible insight into our differences, but also highlight our love for this community.”
Instead, Pappas has asked Zwicker to “consider allowing this debate to be rescheduled.”
“I truly believe that we both have the best interests of the people we hope to represent at heart, and I think it is important that we present to them our visions in this debate,” he asked Zwicker. “I hope that you feel the same and will allow us to have that discussion at a later date.”
Pappas and Zwicker, a three-term assemblyman, are facing off for the open seat of Republican Christopher Bateman, who is retiring after 28 years in the New Jersey Legislature. Democrats view the 16th as one of their best opportunities in the state to flip a Senate seat.
“We are truly saddened to hear about illness in the Pappas family and wish them a speedy and healthy recovery,” said Zwicker’s campaign manager, Sean Gregory. “News like this underscores the need for all of us to get vaccinated, get our boosters where appropriate, and follow reasonable mask guidelines to protect ourselves and others.”
The Pappas campaign declined to say whether Pappas has been vaccinated.
As a Senate candidate, he had opposed mask mandates to slow the spread of Covid and attacked Zwicker for voting to extend Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive powers.
In an interview with Save Jersey’s Matt Rooney earlier this year, Pappas spoke about a 57-year-old friend who died of Covid but had pre-existing medical conditions but said Murphy was handling the pandemic poorly.
“It comes a point where the government shouldn’t be telling me or you what I can do, or where I can go or how many people I can sit with,” Pappas said. “I should be able to make that decision myself and we don’t need the state government to tell me.”