She really, really, really wants you to vote for Barbara Buono.
The forum, featuring Gill, Mark Alexander and Vernon Pullins, Jr., the three candidates running for the 34th district N.J. Senate seat, drew a packed house. Gill asked the audience to vote for Barbara Buono several times during the evening, mentioning the gubernatorial candidate running against Gov. Chris Christie in response to questions asked by moderators. Gill also said she was the only one of the three candidates supporting Buono.
@senatorgill “I can’t do it alone, we need to elect Barbara Buono for governor.”
— baristanet (@baristanet) May 24, 2013
Gill outlined key priorities as better access to health, better gun control and early voting. “With our rights under attack we need a strong voice in Trenton. I am prepared to continue to be that voice and fight for the people of my district every day. Voters sent me to Trenton to fight for them and to fight for the good of my state and I can assure you I will not roll over or fold.”
Alexander, who said he would make property taxes, education, gun control and minimum wage priorities, said “every day as state senator I will push against Chris Christie.”
Pullins, who entered the race in April, challenged Gill a number of times. When Gill referenced meeting with the victims of Newtown in her response to gun control, Pullins said “My condolences to the Newtown families, but I’m in the trenches as the head guidance counselor in city of Newark and I know firsthand about gun shot victims, some of our students have been gunshot victims. This is a crisis and it’s not being treated at the legislative level. I would certainly look to strengthen our gun laws.”
When asked about the issue of rising poverty among New Jersey’s children, and what action could be taken, Gill referenced Gov. Chris Christie’s powerful line item veto and how the programs put in the budget to aid children in poverty are taken out of the budget by Christie, adding “so once again, we need a change in the governor and then we can move these things forward.”
Pullins responded, in regards to poverty, “it’s certainly not something that all of sudden has happened with a Republican governor. We’ve had Democratic governors and this problem perpetuates itself. We need to elect Democrats who will stand up.”
Alexander said of poverty and children, “Our minimum wage is the lowest in the country. There are things worth fighting for. It’s a hard fight to increase the minimum wage and that requires Democrats building bridges to employers and expanding the earned income tax credit that Chris Christie cut. We need to demand those kinds of results in Trenton.”
Gill rebutted “when Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation that I supported to increase the minimum wage, we fought to put it on the ballot. And so Mr. Alexander says there’s no result. Well, he can vote for an increase in minimum wage with the rest of us in November and that minimum wage also includes a cost of living increase. We fought for it and with your help, we’ll get it.”
Alexander received applause when he followed Gill’s remark, saying “the job of the senator is to get the results. So what we just heard form Senator Gill is that we have to do her job for her. If we send people to Trenton to get the job done, not to pass something along to a referendum. Being a senator requires hard choices, but our job as a senator is to actually receive results.
On education, when asked how she differs from the other candidates on policy, Gill said only “I don’t support vouchers and I’m not open to the discussion of supporting vouchers.”
Alexander responded to the same question. “I started this whole question thinking about my four children who are in the Montclair public schools right now. What we are facing now is the need to make sure all our children get the best education possible. So what I’m going to do is, I’m going to fight every day to get the best education for our kids. I’ll be very clear. I do not support vouchers. I support doing everything we can to help our children. We have children in failing schools in Orange and East Orange. We have underfunded schools in Clifton. We have a racial achievement gap in Montclair. And in Montclair, we just got our state funding and it went up not by a single dollar. So how I differ is — I will make sure we get the funding to this district that we deserve. Senator Gill has not delivered.”
Pullins said he disagreed with the other candidates and said he is the only one of the three who has been the leader of an educational institution and who has a record of voting for students first, working with unions to negotiate contracts that are not penalizing them, and looking at how we can implement changes to ensure better academic performance.
Alexander reiterated a commitment to education by saying he would fight for full funding for Montclair and for all the school districts. Of the schools in the district, Alexander mentioned unique challenges of Clifton and East Orange, adding “there is not a one size fits all approach. So every day I will fight for every town and I will do that by being present at the town council meetings and BOE meetings, to make sure I know what it is that is needed for these towns and these schools.”
Gill said of funds for Montclair, “if the school funding formula was fully funded, then the needs would be balanced. And that is why we have to fight Governor Christie and the Republicans. We send fully funded legislation and every year the governor vetoes it. So you know how we get a fully funded formula? We need a new governor. We need to vote for Barbara Buono.”
— Mark Alexander (@MarkCAlexander) May 23, 2013
All three candidates expressed a commitment to marriage equality. Gill said she sponsored both marriage equality bills. Alexander, who called it the “most pressing civil rights issue we are confronting,” said it takes leadership to get it done.
“Christie vetoed marriage equality and shame on him,” said Alexander, “but there was a lack of leadership to get this done and we can’t tolerate that. It was failure of leadership in Trenton of both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats had a chance to get it done before Christie and they failed.”
If you missed the forum, it will air in its entirety on Channel 34 (we will update as soon as info becomes available).
This morning, The Star Ledger endorsed Alexander.