To the Editor:

In reference to both Will Felegi’s recent letter titled “Webber Policies Benefit Constituents” and Jayson Kohut’s letter titled “Debate Outreach Left Unanswered,” I must share with the community that I do not – as a resident, a taxpayer, a community volunteer, or a mother – appreciate when people lie to me. Yet there are demonstrably false statements in both of these letters.

With regard to Felegi’s letter first, it bears mentioning that defending one’s friends and associates is certainly a privilege. It’s another thing entirely to advance lies about a friend’s political opponent to deliberately mislead voters.

While I cannot say, as Felegi does, that I know Jay Webber well, personally or even as a current constituent, I did attend the Ogdensburg debate between the Sussex County freeholder candidates and 11th District candidates including Webber and Mikie Sherrill. I wanted to hear what the candidates had to say. I wrote about my assessment of that debate under separate cover. Webber closed his opening statement by telling voters in Ogdensburg that everything is great now under the present administration, posing to the crowd the question of why we would change anything. The remainder of the debate was about everything that needs to change.

I believe it is false to say that Webber’s policies benefit constituents. The fact that he will not stand against gay conversion therapy (which is widely condemned as torture), voted against equal pay for women, is a threat to earned benefits, voted against covering pre-existing conditions (including disabilities and opioid addiction), abstained from voting in support of covering breast cancer screenings, and at the Ogdensburg debate repeated Trump’s and Zinke’s talking point about an “All of The Above” energy plan when asked about transitioning with urgency to clean energy – which to be clear, is a plan that includes coal and offshore drilling – speaks to the disconnect.

Webber supports the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that attacked our SALT deductions last December. Sherrill opposes it and plans to fight for our deductions to be returned. She does not plan to increase taxes – rather, the opposite. In most of her public appearances, she notes that our taxes are high and that New Jersey as a state gets one of the lowest return rates on every dollar that goes to the federal government. She plans to fight for more of our money to serve New Jersey – for example, in finally financing the Gateway project. Don’t take my word for it; here, let her tell you herself.

Further, she has no intention of going anywhere near 2A, and to make that allegation is little more than fear-mongering. Mikie Sherrill is endorsed by a number of veterans groups and law enforcement groups, including but not limited to the New Jersey State PBA  and VoteVets. She is a former Naval Academy graduate, is a pilot and was a helicopter aircraft commander, was a federal prosecutor and a Russian policy expert, and is an expert markswoman in two gun categories (rifle and pistol, if interested). She intends to uphold our Constitutional rights even while pursuing common sense safety legislation that has broad-based, across-the-aisle appeal.

That is what bipartisanship is: taking the best ideas from different groups and working together to reach achievable goals that make people’s lives better.

Political discourse should never deteriorate into such blatant falsehoods as were alleged in Felegi’s letter. It’s one thing to have a discussion in which policy is debated, and people’s ideas on best policy practices differ. It’s important to get contrasting viewpoints and bring everyone to the table to negotiate. But when voter outreach strategy becomes misleading voters, the debate is already lost.

This brings us to Kohut’s letter. I can tell you that as chair of the Democratic Committee and one of the people managing the Jefferson Township Democratic Committee Facebook page, Felegi and I communicated on October 9 when, in response to his message to the page about a debate, I gave him my cell phone number and invited him to call, noting that time was crucial. As an organizer of environmental events, I know sometimes the fine details take the most attention in planning an event, and wanted to work those out quickly.

Felegi told me in reply that he forwarded the message to his vice chair, Kohut, and I would hear from him “sometime today.” Five days later, I reminded Felegi that I awaited their call. There were some emails traded between interested parties all the while, but we local Democrats were not the ones who backed down – in fact, the phone call never did come. I found out later from an interested township resident’s email that the Republicans had told her there was insufficient time to plan a debate. At no point did they call me directly.

Thus, to allege that the Democrats “never wanted a debate” is demonstrably false. Our candidates also showed up to the local Chamber of Commerce event prepared to debate, in case the meet-and-greet had become an informal forum.

Perhaps this was truly a case where people just didn’t know whose court the ball fell into at any given time, as this town has not seen cause for a proper debate in years. If so, I am happy to work together in future to start the process earlier. However, I’m inclined to think that, in expressing our interest, we called a bluff.

I look forward to future discourse at a higher level than that of the content of the two recent letters from Republican leaders in town, and I hope in good faith that their messages do not reflect on the candidates they represent.

Christine Clarke, Jefferson Township
The letter writer is the chair of the Jefferson Township Democratic Committee.

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted to our newsroom and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Jefferson Chronicle or its staff.

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