“If Phil Murphy succeeds in making New Jersey ‘California East,’ which is his stated objective, then everybody surely knows what’s our Berkeley. Our Berkeley is obviously Montclair. And Montclair Mikie is obviously going to be our Nancy Pelosi,” Webber told a Morris County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany.
Some of his remarks were rebuttals of statements there last week by Sherrill, who told Chamber members that Webber, a state Assemblyman from Morris Plains, was too far to the right for a Congressional district that spans parts of Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Essex counties.
The candidates are vying to succeed Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a 12-term Republican who opted to retire rather than face the first competitive race of his career.
Video: Congressional candidate Jay Webber at the Morris Chamber of Commerce:
Federal spending reports through June showed Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot, had raised more than seven times as much as Webber’s campaign. A recent National Research poll commissioned by Webber suggested he trails Sherrill by three points.
Praising President Trump, who has endorsed him, for rising wages and low unemployment, Webber pledged to help continue economic growth if elected.
By contrast, he accused Sherrill of a “decidely dour,” pessimistic campaign “marked by hypocrisy, mendacity and a liberalism that does not belong in Morris County.”
Sherrill is “focused on looking back at social controversies,” he said, while running “with people who want to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and have open borders.”
The Harvard-educated lawyer repeatedly rapped Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor, for not speaking out against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The Senator’s trial on corruption charges ended in a hung jury last year, and federal prosecutors in January dropped the case.
A Sherrill TV ad attacking Webber for opposing an equal-pay-for-women bill in Trenton is “silly” and “absurd,” he said, asserting New Jersey already requires equal pay for equal work. The measure he opposed was poorly defined, and only would have benefited lawyers, he said.
“For Mikie Sherrill, who is an attorney, to suggest I don’t support equal pay for equal work because I voted against that bill is flatly wrong. It’s simply dishonest, and what disturbs me most is she’s got to know it,” Webber said.
“The outcome of this campaign could literally mean the difference between millions more people getting jobs, or millions more people going back on food stamps. Millions more going back on Medicaid, or millions of people getting the health insurance they want and can afford. Millions of people feeling empowered, versus millions feeling entitled. Those are the stakes,” Webber said.
The Sherrill campaign responded:
“Assemblyman Webber needs to own his ten-year voting record of not standing up for the people of New Jersey.
“He was the only person in the entire state legislature to vote against covering addiction treatment programs and to limit the length of opioid prescriptions. He was one of two people in the legislature to vote against equal pay.
“He backs a tax bill that no member of Congress from North Jersey, Democrat or Republican, supports. Our families deserve a Representative who will put them first, and Assemblyman Webber’s record shows he puts his own ideological agenda ahead of the people of this state,” a Webber spokesman said.
TWEETS, TAXES, CLIMATE
Webber described a middle-class upbringing in Clifton. His TV ads prominently feature his seven children and his family values.
Asked how he squares those beliefs with support for President Trump, and the myriad controversies that surround him, Webber told Morristown Green:
“I don’t know the President, personally. I know what he’s done for the country, his policies are successful, and I’m looking forward to going to Washington to continue to make the country freer and more prosperous.
“I don’t get into the controversies of the day down there. I don’t like everything the President says or tweets. I don’t like a lot of what he does. If you’re worried about character in this campaign, where’s the outrage at Bob Menendez?”
In his half-hour talk and Q and A with Chamber members, Webber shared his views on several issues.
While the GOP tax bill’s cap on property tax deductions is bad for New Jersey, pluses outweigh minuses and the average family of four in Morris County will save $6,000 in taxes, he said. His opponent keeps harping on the “dark lining in the silver cloud.”
Webber said he wants less government control of health care, and aims “to empower people to have choice of their doctors and their insurance plans.” He did not say how he would achieve this.
Webber called auto emission regulations “a little excessive” under President Obama’s “aggressive EPA.” The Keystone pipeline and other projects were sent to “regulatory hell,” which he deemed “counterproductive.”
The candidate said it’s important to strike a balance between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth.
“In New Jersey the pendulum probably has swung too far towards environmental protection,” punishing businesses, he said, adding that banning or taxing plastic bags and straws only will hasten the exodus of over-taxed residents.
“I don’t know what my children would do with their juice boxes if they couldn’t have a little plastic straw …. I guess we’d make them out of paper or something,” Webber said.
“Climate change is real, it happens. I think human beings have an effect on our climate. The extent to which they have an effect is not a resolved issue. What we should do about it is the real controversy,” Webber said. He defended President Trump for pulling out of the Paris climate accord, a “bad deal” that “tied our hands behind our back.”
He suggested allowing financial institutions to underwrite students’ college education, in exchange for a percentage of the students’ subsequent earnings.
The candidates have agreed to a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ in Whippany, followed the same evening by a candidates’ night in Ogdensburg. On Wednesday, Oct. 10, they are scheduled to debate at 8 pm on NJTV.
This article has been updated to include a response from the Sherrill campaign.