New Jersey Senator Vince Polistina and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo faced off last night in a debate presented by The Stockton University Hughes Center for Public Policy and The Press of Atlantic City.

Stockton University always does a highly professional job with these types of important public events.

Debates provide a unique and direct opportunity for candidates to differentiate themselves from one another.

Polistina was decidedly more polished. Mazzeo struggles badly in public settings such as this, and he does everything possible to limit his participation because he typically performs so poorly in public speaking events.

Polistina demonstrated a depth of understanding regarding public policy and his own philosophy of governance.

Vince Mazzeo - YouTube user Vince Mazzeo
Vince Mazzeo - YouTube user Vince Mazzeo

By comparison, despite his multiple terms in the state legislature, Mazzeo simply doesn’t possess a grasp of key issues, and he struggles to try and memorize a few issues, whereby he always manages to mangle his talking points.

Both men are polite gentlemen, but the feathers did fly a bit during a discussion about the Atlantic City PILOT legislation, payment in lieu of taxes.

Polistina hit Mazzeo hard on the state, borrowing $ 4 billion, and he cited the profound need to get property taxes under control. It was a very effective line of focus for Polistina.

Mazzeo’s counter was vintage socialist democrat tripe. Mazzeo stated how spending more would reduce taxes. It fell flat because it’s intellectually dishonest on its face.

There was a substantive gotcha moment during the one-hour debate.

Polistina offered that it is important for the state to live within the 2 percent spending cap that it requires municipalities and counties to adhere to.

Mazzeo responded that Polistina had voted against the 2 percent spending cap when he was in the legislature.

Polistina denied the charge. Mazzeo responded, “We’ll have to check on that.”

We did. Polistina voted for the 2 percent spending cap more than a decade ago. Mazzeo’s allegation was false, as much of the content in the current media campaign that Mazzeo is running against Polistina.

Mazzeo was asked if he believed that the revenue generated by casino revenue from sports betting and online wagering should be removed from the PILOT calculations.

His response was vintage Mazzeo. Instead of answering the question because he didn’t have an answer instead, he posed another question. In the end, Mazzeo failed to answer either question, the one he was asked by a debate moderator and the one that he asked of himself.

Polistina did answer the question without hesitation. Polistina is opposed to eliminating online gaming revenue and sports gaming revenue from the PILOT formula. His reasoning is that it’s irresponsible to do it when municipalities and the county have so many important public needs.

We learned a few more general things during this debate.

Polistina is a polished, articulate, well-informed incumbent Senator and candidate seeking re-election.

Mazzeo continues to demonstrate that no matter how many years he serves in state office, he still lacks a basic understanding of how state government works.

In this one-on-one debate, there was a clear winner.

Polistina won, and it wasn’t close. The contrast between these two candidates couldn’t be starker.

General Election Day is Tuesday, November 2, 2021, preceded by 9 days of early voting for the first time in New Jersey history.

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