Atlantic County Senate 2nd Debate – Polistina vs. Mazzeo (Opinion)
HARRY HURLEY OPINION & ANALYSIS
New Jersey Senator Vince Polistina, R-2, and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-2 participated in a debate last night sponsored and presented by the New Jersey Globe.
David Wildstein, founder and executive editor, and reporter Micah Rasmussen moderated the debate. It was the second and final debate of this General Election campaign season for Polistina and Mazzeo.
Polistina was polished, well-informed and possessed a command of the issues, while Mazzeo was clumsy and lacked a depth of understanding regarding New Jersey state issues.
Early in the debate, Polistina was asked by Wildstein about Craig Callaway working for his campaign.
Polistina was unfazed by the question and addressed it head-on and without equivocation, also sharing that Callaway worked for the United States Congressman Jeff Van Drew in the last election cycle.
Polistina discussed the early voting which begins on October 23rd and the importance of the overall get out the vote effort.
In his rebuttal, Mazzeo was highly critical of Callaway and said that he had requested that an investigation of Callaway be conducted regarding potential voting irregularities.
This attack by Mazzeo earns him a Chutzpah of the Year award nomination because Callaway worked on behalf of Mazzeo and Assemblyman John Armato in 2019.
Ironically, without Callaway’s direct support in 2019, John Risley and Phil Guenther would have defeated Mazzeo and Armato for the two Atlantic County Assembly seats.
Risley and Guenther held a commanding lead before Callaway’s vaunted vote by mail ballots were counted.
Callaway previously revealed on WPG Talk Radio 95.5’s “Hurley in the Morning” (early in the campaign) that he would never work for Mazzeo ever again.
Mazzeo’s comments now about Callaway ring hollow, as they come only after Callaway fired Mazzeo as a client.
Mazzeo questioned Polistina about his private engineering firm (Polistina and Associates) earning taxpayer dollars.
Polistina made it clear that he was not going to apologize for building a successful business (nearly 20 years ago), which employs Atlantic County residents, pays taxes, and provides an important public service the building of roads, bridges, and other important public projects.
Polistina did not offer any criticism about Mazzeo and his private profession.
On multiple occasions, Mazzeo was called Assemblyman (by debate moderator Micha Rasmussen), while Polistina was referred to as “Mr. Polistina” and not Senator Polistina throughout the debate.
Wildstein referred to both candidates as “Mister” throughout the debate. Wildstein was fair and balanced and I don’t believe that Rasmussen was being biased.
He just didn’t appear to grasp that Polistina is at the very minimum, Atlantic County’s state senator-select, or, senator-elect.
There should have been more focus placed on how Mazzeo’s Camden County supporters have kept District 2 without a fully functioning state senate legislative office for purely political reasons.
The Democrats actually turned off the working constituent phone lines, seized the constituent files, and still brazenly refuse to swear in Polistina even though he promptly received state certification of his selection as Senator.
Mazzeo feigned that he has no say or control over this disgraceful injustice.
Mazzeo had the opportunity last night and earlier in this campaign, whereby he should have done the honorable thing and supported District 2 by having a fully installed Senator.
Had Mazzeo been selected as State Senator, he would have been promptly sworn-in … the same should have been done for Senator Polistina.
Mazzeo has worked against Atlantic County’s District 2 before. When former Senator Chris Brown was working mightily to oppose legalized casino gaming in North Jersey, Mazzeo initially supported Senator Brown.
Almost immediately thereafter, Mazzeo actually whited his name and signature from Brown’s petition.
Mazzeo has refused to explain this for years, but, the public has long ago concluded that Camden County political potentates, who wield significant sway over Mazzeo, ordered him to remove his name and support for keeping casino gaming only in Atlantic County.
I have always maintained that this was a disqualifying “offense” committed by Mazzeo.
What can’t be argued is that Mazzeo signed the petition and then whited out his own signature of support from the petition. He says that no one had ever brought this issue up before. That is an unserious, absurd, and untruthful comment.
Had Mazzeo and his political bosses succeeded in expanding casino gaming into North Jersey, several Atlantic City casinos would have closed and thousands of Atlantic County jobs would have been lost forever.
Most likely, the Hard Rock Atlantic City casino would currently be sitting in the New Jersey Meadowlands had Mazzeo had his way.
This was one of the most important things that came up during last night’s debate and it received only a cursory review.
Outrageously, Mazzeo again made the false claim last night that Polistina voted against legalized sports betting in New Jersey … when it was actually the Democrats who criticized then-Governor Chris Christie for taking the sport’s betting case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The Democrats called it basically a fool's errand, yet, Christie put a great case together, which the United States Supreme Court miraculously agreed to hear and in the end, ruled in favor of New Jersey.
Try to imagine the Atlantic City casino gaming jurisdiction without sport’s betting? The industry has been setting all-time financial performance records.
The obligatory issue of abortion (mentioned in every debate) was raised during the debate, with Polistina eviscerating Mazzeo for being in favor of abortions until very late-term.
“It hasn’t moved (the legislation) because it’s extreme and it’s radical, and shouldn’t happen,” said Polistina. “You’re getting a lot of pushback from people over that bill, of which he’s a co-sponsor because it allows abortions in months seven, eight, and nine… Roe v. Wade is the law of the land … but there has to become a point where you have to protect life.”
This legislation titled the Reproductive Freedom Act, which Mazzeo is a co-sponsor, is so radical that it is not expected to pass … even with large Democrat majorities in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly.
Polistina closed by talking about the fact that Atlantic County has dropped in population size for the first time since 1940, according to official Census data.
“We know we have to get these policies turned around,” said Polistina. “If we don’t really get this turned around, come up with a system that is predicated on spending money responsibly, giving people opportunity, and investing people in their own personal responsibility to make the best decisions they can for themselves and their family, then we’re going to continue to see an exodus of people. We can’t have that.”
Mazzeo’s closing statement focused on the “differences” between himself and Polistina – yet, he failed throughout the entire debate to actually detail their differences.
“Tonight you have heard the clear and stark differences between myself and Mr. Polistina,” he said. “I restored the funding to women’s health care that he cut. I voted to cut taxes on working people when he did not. I was part of bringing Atlantic City back from the brink of bankruptcy,” said Mazzeo.
Mazzeo confirmed that it is his now stated belief that Atlantic City is not qualified to be given back its right to self-govern at this time.
This was an amazing revelation given that Mazzeo relies on receiving a disproportionate share of Atlantic City votes in order to win past District 2 elections.
Now, just a few weeks before Election Day, Mazzeo confirmed that he doesn’t believe that Atlantic City can manage its own affairs.
Wildstein did a very good job of managing the debate. Both candidates were also professional and observed debate rules and time limits.
In my view, it was readily apparent that Polistina won the debate on form, style, product knowledge, overall preparedness, and substance.
New Jersey’s first-ever early voting (9 days worth) is just five days away and General Election Day is Tuesday, November 2, 2021.
SOURCE: David Wildstein & The New Jersey Globe.
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