by Laura Mortkowitz
The congressional candidates for the 12th district debated yesterday in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater on a number of topics ranging from student loans to Iran.
Democratic congressman Rush Holt, the incumbent, and Alan Bateman, the Republican deputy mayor of Holmdel, had more common ground than opposition on the seven issues presented.
“They know what the people want,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics and moderator of the debate. “You don’t always get ideologues, which is good for democracy too. People can judge them on any number of things.”
The two candidates completely agreed on the issues of Iran, the No Child Left Behind Act and withdrawal from Iraq, and partially agreed on the future of student loans.
They agreed that money for student loans would be available with action from Congress.
“I expect that support, financial support, for students who want to go on in higher education will be a priority of the Obama administration and I know it will be a priority of us Democrats in the House of Representatives,” Holt said.
The candidates then debated before admitting they agreed about Iraq. They want troops out of Iraq as soon as possible without jeopardizing the newfound Iraqi government.
“I believe [a sudden exit] would create instability and allow other surrounding countries, such as Iran, to come in to fill a void left by the United States,” Bateman said.
Holt mentioned the consensus in Washington, “with the possible exception of Sen. McCain,” is that the troops will not be there long-term.
The real dissent came from the current economic situation. Bateman believes the economy can grow by “lowering capital gains tax,” which would encourage businesses to invest back in the market.
Holt disagreed, stating that the tax was average in comparison to other countries and did not affect economic growth.
Bateman’s philosophy was that lowering taxes gave people more money to spend and invest. However, Holt cited the policies of President Bush’s administration.
“What the Bush tax cuts did was give us a deficit that is huge every year, now amounting to a $9-plus trillion debt,” Holt said. “That’s more than $30,000 in debt that each one of you carries.”
The two were in agreement about the No Child Left Behind Act.
“The problem is that it was put together in such a way that the measures were as inequitable as the inequalities the law was supposed to correct,” Holt said.
They also agreed on the issue of Iran, stating that the country is a serious threat, especially if they gain access to nuclear weapons.
At the end of the debate the two discussed their opinions on the upcoming election.
“This is an important election for all sorts of reasons, economic, national security, and for our domestic wellbeing and our sense of optimism,” Holt said. “This is the first generation where people are saying they are expecting the
next generation to have a lesser quality of life.”
He explained his pride in beating back “cynicism about government” — a cynicism that Bateman shares.
“[Holt] believes that government is the answer,” he said. “I believe government needs to help enable the economy, not get in its way, not hurt families. I’ve been fighting for quality of life as deputy mayor of Holmdel.”