After nearly two months of debating each other through their comments on the campaign trail, the last week or so the two candidates for the special election to select the next U.S. Senator from New Jersey were able to finally go face to face in a structured debate setting. The two debates would give voters a chance to compare and more so contrast Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan. The two have not held back words on the campaign trail and the debate forum would not change that demeanor between them.
Leading up to the first debate, Lonegan would confidently state;
I want everybody in the country to watch this debate. I’m 100 percent confident by the time I’m done in this debate he’s going to be exposed as the far left liberal he is, a failed mayor and a rubber stamp for Barack Obama.
While a Booker spokesman would utter,
The mayor is going to go into this debate looking to explain what he wants to do for the people of New Jersey. Of course, he’ll also be looking to outline the choice that a lot of New Jersey voters have, and make sure they understand where Mr. Lonegan is coming from — the tea party wing of the Republican Party.
The same between Booker and Lonegan has truly presented voters with two candidates you can't confuse with one another. That has led political experts in the state to highlight the dynamic of the race.
As Ross K. Baker, a Rutgers University political science professor, would explain;
The contrast between them is quite remarkable. I can’t recall a time when there were candidates who were so diametrically opposed on so many things, stylistically so different. The only thing they have in common is that they were both mayors.
In the first debate, Booker would target Lonegan's extremist opinions on issues that match the more conservative members of the Republican Party while Lonegan would call Booker a "Hollywood politician" who tweets and has failed Newark as an extremist himself.
With the first debate falling shortly after the government shutdown starting as well as the Affordable Care Act's marketplace opening up; the ACA was a big focal point of conversation and one could easily see the contrasting opinions the two have on the subject. Not too surprisingly, Booker supports the ACA while Lonegan is a major advocate of repealing it.
As the debate progressed, the only thing that was similar between Booker and Lonegan was probably their attire. Anything Booker said, Lonegan disagreed with. Anything Lonegan said, Booker disagreed with. While Booker has been attacked by liberal members of his party, Lonegan still sees him as an extremist. At the same time, Lonegan has been embraced by conservative members of his party and Booker has not been shy about calling him an extremist.
If conversations and exchanges seemed heated in the first debate, the two men would take the second debate as a chance to only amp the race and exchanges up with the election that much closer. Each day that the race nears closer, the poll tighten a bit and the need to secure voters for October 16th increases.
The issues facing the nation and New Jersey were on display again as were the two candidates' records.
Booker would frame his opponent as such:
If you want more of what is making Washington go wrong, vote for Steve Lonegan.
One of the more poignant exchanges revolved around the Passaic River and spending towards environmental regulations.
For Lonegan: "You may not be able to swim in that river, but it's probably, I think, because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city."
For Booker: "Oh my god. This is what he thinks of our cities – bodies floating in the river. How insulting is that?"
Social issues like same sex marriage and abortion were popular topics as well. Booker is open to same sex couple marrying as well as having children and is pro choice. Lonegan is completely the opposite on each of those matters.
If one were not too sure what separates Booker from Lonegan and Lonegan from Booker, all they need to do is spend a couple hours watching these debates and will see two men who could not be further apart on every issue and thus it should make it fairly easy for voters to decide which one best reflects their stances and who will serve New Jersey and the country best when they head to the polls this week.