By David Cruz
Candidates in the 10th congressional district Democratic primary faced off against one another in a candidates’ forum in West Orange this morning. This is one of the most closely watched races this primary season, featuring four heavyweight candidates with extensive public service records and close political ties to one another. Newcomer Cathy Wright was also on the dais.
They’re all running to succeed the late Donald Payne Sr. who passed away earlier this year. The sponsor was the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey and, as such, included discussion of the Middle East, including Iran and the stalled Israeli, Palestinian peace talks. The candidates? They staked out very similar ground.
“At the end of the day, we need a long-term peace solution for that part of the world with Israel’s continued peaceful existence,” said Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith.
Wright, the newcomer to the group, echoed the sentiments of her fellow candidates when she said she supported a two-state solution to the Palestinian peace talks.
State Sen. Nia Gill said she supported negotiations with no preconditions from either side.
Donald Payne Jr. said his top priority was Israel’s security and said that any negotiations would have to start from that position.
The crowd of about 100 included some local elected officials but also a healthy selection of voters with no horse in the race. Jill Tekel of West Orange said Gill left a good impression with her but that any of the candidates she saw would be OK.
“I think that it’s very impressive to have a woman, of course, because I’m a woman,” said Tekel. “I know that Don Payne comes from a legacy and Ron Rice Jr. does and being the mayor of Irvington, I know that [Wayne Smith] has pushed forward a lot of successful programs, and I completely understand and support Cathy Wright’s effort to put herself out there. I just want to make sure that our congressional group works well together.”
Among the politicians in attendance was Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, who has endorsed Payne. Parts of the 10th district are in Jersey City. He said he was pleased that all the candidates were mostly on the same page in terms of positions on the issues.
“I think that at this stage a lot of it comes down to style,” he said. “I think the substance of their positions, in the most part, is very, very similar.”
Today’s forum showed yet again how very close these candidates are on almost all the issues, so, if in fact it comes down to “who do you like” all five candidates seemed to have worked hard to ensure that they offended no one.