Editorial: The NJ-2 Stockton townhall: Single-payer healthcare and campaign finance

An editorial written by Jeff Epstein, Editor of Citizens’ Media TV

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This is an editorial, a blog remembrance, focusing on two issues only, of the Stockton Townhall for Democratic candidates in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District (original facebook post, raw footage). The event was hosted by South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, Action Together New Jersey, and Stockton College Democrats.

There was only limited time in which to follow up with the candidates. Except where noted, I am reasonably confident about what is written here. The candidates presented in this article are in the same order in which they appeared at the townhall.

Will Cunningham

Will Cunningham declared his candidacy only last week. He spoke about his upbringing, highlighted by his mother, who he says was his biggest influence. The most shocking question, and one of the first, asked Cunningham to state whether or not George Norcross asked him to run. The rumor being that he would siphon some of the minority vote away from the Tanzie Youngblood Campaign, thus increasing the chances of a win by John Van Drew. Van Drew, the fourth Democratic candidate, was not in attendance. It is suspected by three audience members I spoke with, that Van Drew is Norcross’ hand picked successor to the retiring Republican incumbent, Frank LoBiondo. Cunningham tersely and simply denied any influence by Norcross.

When asked about campaign finance and what kind of donations he would accept, he said that Citizen’s United needs to be overturned, but did not directly address what specific kinds of donations he would and would not accept. When I followed up afterwards, he stated, before making any no-corporate or PAC pledge, that he first wants all the candidates to commit to the same pledge. Since it seems likely that at least Van Drew will have a PAC supporting his campaign, I asked if that means he will therefore also have a PAC? He bristled and said that other people were waiting to ask questions, then turned away to address someone else.

During the town hall, and audience member asked if Cunningham supported single-payer healthcare. Cunningham talked about how the Affordable Care Act must be improved and that “everyone deserves access to healthcare.” I followed up afterwards (before the subject of donations), asking him specifically whether or not he supports single-payer healthcare. He repeated his answer regarding access. When I pushed him to clarify whether or not he supports single-payer, he responded, “That is my stance.”

Sean Thom

Thom opened with a bold speech basically supporting the policies and concepts of Bernie Sanders.

Thom’s biggest applause came when he called out George Norcross by name, proclaiming his decades long reign on top of South Jersey politics needs to end. At one point during his answers, he exclaimed, “absolutely!,” which was immediately followed by his four-year-old son shouting, “Abalooey!”

Thom has committed to no corporate or super-PAC money donations and considers overturning Citizen’s United a top priority. He initially stated that he would resign after one year if Citizen’s United wasn’t overturned. Surprised by that, I submitted a question asking him to clarify. He then stated that he misspoke, and that he would rather resign than accept big money donations.

Thom strongly supports single-payer healthcare.

Tanzie Youngblood

Youngblood, a dynamic speaker, railed against those in power who suggest that she doesn’t have a shot in a district that has been represented by a Republican for decades. She responded, “I say, let’s see what the people want. Let’s let them decide.”

During the townhall, I asked Youngblood if she would commit to a “no corporate or PAC money pledge.” She responded that she would not forsake corporate money entirely, because “there are corporations that do good things.“ This elicited a strong supportive response from the audience, with one person shouting, “You have to keep the lights on!”

Afterwards, Youngblood clarified that her campaign would not establish any PACs. A seemingly-very knowledgable audience member previously told me that Youngblood has received a $5,000 donation from a Kristin Gillibrand PAC intended to support women candidates. Youngblood also stated that she would not accept any one donation, whether from a PAC, corporation, or individual, above the legal individual limit. My impression is that Youngblood is only interested in accepting small donations. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with campaign-finance laws to properly follow up or understand. This is therefore the paragraph I am least confident about.

Youngblood does believe strongly in single-payer healthcare.

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