CD12 debate: safety-first forum minimizes surprises heading toward Tuesday

SOMERSET – The clipboard and granny glasses greeting at the front gate of a sealed compound didn’t suggest that what lay within the brick building beyond would constitute anything other than a sanitized forum: senior citizen-dominant and sedate.

Each of the five CD12 candidates would have exactly two minutes to speak.

GOP competitor Dr. Alieta Eck sat up there at the front of the carpeted room with the four Democrats competing in Tuesday’s June 3rd Primary.    

“This has nothing to do with the Tea Party; they’re on their way out,” said plasma physicist Andrew Zwicker, gorged on the ads of the two Democratic Primary frontrunners, state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15), who continue to target Republican Party extremism in this rundown to Tuesday.

Greenstein slapped back at the comment.

“They’re still there,” she said, referring to Tea Party members, declaring again her willingness to go toe-to-toe with them in Congress.

Having stayed away from entanglements with Greenstein since her opening shot a few months ago when she entered the race, Watson Coleman now began her remarks with a hand buzzer aimed at her rival.

“I’m a leader, not just a politician,” she zapped, doubling up on her initial criticism of Greenstein as “not a leader.”

An engineer by trade, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) handled an infrastructure question. “We spent billions of dollars in war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he griped. “If only we could spend that on infrastructure.”

On the same question, Watson Coleman took a moment to tag her old favorite target: Gov. Chris Christie.  “We needed that tunnel because it created all kinds of jobs with construction,” the assemblywoman said, referring to the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel that Christie scrapped.

 Greenstein managed to throw out an homage to the Late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who had fought unsuccessfully for the ARC tunnel.

On behalf of the group of Democrats, Zwicker on the heels of the lone Republican candidate appeared happy to continually bat down Eck whenever she made a market based point, including her referral to private retirement accounts inspired by Milton Friedman implemented in Chile as a possible model.

“Social Security is the most successful program the federal government ever set up,” said the long shot candidate.

Moments later, Eck struck at the Affordable Care Act. “It’s the worst invasion of privacy this nation has ever seen,” complained the medical doctor by trade, sparked into politics by her opposition to Obamacare.

Eck received repeated applause for her answers.

Now Zwicker slapped Eck and somewhat sapped the similar-sounding answers of those fellow Democratic candidates who followed him.

“There were people who couldn’t get coverage because of a pre-existing conditions, who now have it,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act is law, it is here to stay. We need to think about making it better.”

Applause.

Greenstein expanded.

“We need to strengthen it [ACA] and work out the bugs and we need to move toward a single-payer system,” said the senator.

Zwicker flashed a lopsided, wheelhouse grin at the next question, regarding how the country could improve science and technology. “Send a scientist back to Congress,” cracked the plasma physicist.

"Sit down and shut up!"
—Gov. Chris Christie, to a Hurricane Sandy heckler