Gill, Alexander and Pullins Talk Guns, Minimum Wage and Barbara Buono at League of Women Voters Forum

Gill, Alexander and Pullins Talk Guns, Minimum Wage and More at League of Women Voters ForumLast night, Senator Nia Gill sent a very clear message to constituents at a candidates forum hosted by The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area at Charles Bullock School.

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.

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.
bullock debate

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.”

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.

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  1. Thanks for the story, Liz.

    Is Alexander kidding us by calling marriage equality the most “pressing civil rights issue we are confronting”? Understand, I support marriage and all equality, the the point of not letting my son be a Boy Scout, and supporting causes with my time and money. BUT with stop and frisk, the destruction of the Black family, gun violence and unemployment in the Black community at levels that would NEVER be tolerated in any other community, his statement is factually wrong, embarrassing, pandering and offensive!

    As I’ve stated before, I don’t agree with Gill on much– her dumb statement about not even “listening” to a discussion of vouchers only shows her allegiances– but she seems like an honest, caring civil-servant.

    From this tough, Pullins seemed to make the most sense.

    How many names did Alexander drop?

  2. Nowhere are gun laws more restrictive or more oppressive or more complicated, and yet we are going to have this gun control talking point as if that is going to do anything but create a larger and more unarmed population for the criminal element to prey upon. The latest tragedy and events surrounding it should be inspiring people to seek out ways to protect themselves.

    How about Gill, Alexander and Pillins address the real but touchy issues that serve as root causes for the savagery and violence in certain subcultures. Maybe, they can address the apathy and the recidivism and the disenfranchisement and levels of violence that society inevitably fuels when it fails to offer a path to redemption. Why are there small pockets of individuals who are so out of step with the generally progressive culture that prevails overall in Montclair? Are these individuals all below the poverty line? Or, are some of them from good homes but falling under the influence of peer pressure and thereby further contributing to the growth of this gangster culture that so often looks to imitate nearby cities that actually have real crime problems. How much does the availability of The resources are here. The great schools and teachers are here. The environment and the social support programs and organizations are here. There is an atmosphere that is supportive and nurturing. Why do some people reject it outright? So far, this line up of politicians just insults our intelligence.

  3. I hit submit too fast. I meant to ask, ” How much does the availability of low income housing contribute to all of this?” What safeguards can be implemented to ensure a proper ascension? You have the ideal example where an immigrant family is able to get their foot into a good, safe community and enroll their children into schools that will propel them into higher education. Gradually, they move into bigger place and eventually purchase a home in town. Sounds good, but how often do we just see people who bring all of their baggage from lower income communities and then introduce chaos into our schools and communities? It is something to seriously examine and not dismiss entirely out of emotion.

    Clearly, on a larger scale, the city of Newark needs to attract tech start ups, the State of New Jersey and the County of Essex need to attract more industry. And the USA needs to stop importing engineers from India and overseas. Companies need to be restricted so that they cannot outsource production.

  4. stonebridgemfa is exactly right.

    Whenever anyone mentions guns, violence and all of this. WITHOUT mentioning poverty and the sorry state of the Black community (unemployment, unwed moms, teenage pregnancies, gun violence, etc.), I know the speech maker is living in another world.

    Or is just scared to speak the truth.

  5. I attended the debate last night – it was mostly talking points and not much substance. I was taken back by Mark Alexander’s criticism of Nia Gill not attending BOE and town council meetings particularly when I haven’t seen him at any that I have attended (and I attend BOE meetings regularly). Not sure that would be the best use of our state senator’s time. He mostly criticized her for not being effective while she countered with the fact that the dems dont have enough votes to override a veto and Christie is a very powerful governor in that he has a line item veto power. Had gone to the debate undecided but didn’t like the negative tone and lack of substance I heard from Alexander. And yes, he did drop a lot of names and didn’t say as much how he would do things differently. Am now leaning towards Gill (despite Star Ledger endorsement).

  6. The Ledger endorsement included a telling point, that Alexander’s “… knowledge of state issues is spotty.” It claims that this “will change.”

    But why do we have to elect him and then hope for him to gain knowledge of the issues?

    Mr. Law Professor should have a good grasp of the issues (certainly not every point, but c’mon). Had he, along with having a clear vision, contrasting himself with Gill– PERHAPS I would have considered voting for him.

    But after all this time, for him to STILL be “spotty on issues”, along with his “vote-for-me-my-Dad-worked-for-LBJ-and-I-know-Obama” stuff shows me that he’s a guy looking to begin a national career.

    Which is fine. But you gotta KNOW your stuff. And even his endorsing Newspaper agrees, he doesn’t.

  7. “Whenever anyone mentions guns, violence and all of this. WITHOUT mentioning poverty and the sorry state of the Black community (unemployment, unwed moms, teenage pregnancies, gun violence, etc.), I know the speech maker is living in another world. Or is just scared to speak the truth.”

    So incredibly true. The problem is lack of interest / involvement from the community and having a few meetings after every tragic event does not count. Real organic accountability and action is required from within the community on the follow. Politicians are scum, they can’t help. Citizens need to step up. A great example is Brandon Brown, he should not have had a bed to go home to nor should he have been welcomed in Montclair, people like that need to be effectively exiled from their communities.

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