Home » latest » Hamm, Campos-Medina seek a bolder image than frontrunner Kim in NJ Senate debate
hamm campos medina seek a bolder image than frontrunner kim in nj senate debate
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Hamm, Campos-Medina seek a bolder image than frontrunner Kim in NJ Senate debate

Senate candidates Patricia Campos-Medina and Larry Hamm fought to undermine Andy Kim’s frontrunner status Monday night — questioning his effectiveness on immigration reform and drawing sharp distinctions from his support aid to Israel — during a debate moderated by WNYC’s Michael Hill at the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The debate — with video streamed live on WNYC.org — saw longtime activist and People’s Organization for Progress founder Hamm pledge to join Princeton students in a hunger strike as they seek divestment from Israeli interests amid the ongoing war in Gaza. And Campos-Medina — a labor rights leader and El Salvadoran immigrant — pushed Kim, a three-term congressman, for what she described as inaction on immigration. Kim, by contrast, focused on pragmatic approaches — and winning elections to keep Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson or former President Trump from setting a national agenda. On the issue of immigration reform, Kim said he worries that Americans are “losing touch with that sense of value in America” that immigrants bring to the country. He said he’s frustrated by talking to Republican colleagues in Congress who he said “don’t want to actually solve this problem,” but think an unsolved immigration crisis is a “good political weapon.” But he said Congress can take a “very tangible” step to deal with a massive influx of immigrants — hiring more immigration judges and creating a process to dispose of cases in “30 to 60 days.” Hamm said the U.S. needs an immigration system based on “human rights,” saying reforms should prevent ongoing border separation of families, which he described as “an abomination.” And Campos-Medina said she would invest in resettlement programs for families and ensure that all asylum cases are adjudicated in a way that keeps families together. Campos-Medina said immigrants “contribute to America; we do not poison it.” And she called immigration reform a “failure” of the U.S. government, asking what Kim had done to work for it during his six years in Congress. Kim’s response: Trump was still in office and Democrats’ focus was on stopping the “backsliding” due to Trump’s immigration policy, which he called “cruel.” The debate gave Campos-Medina and Hamm a chance to draw a distinction from Kim on the Israel-Gaza war, just weeks after Kim voted for military aid to Israel. Kim said he’s supported providing Israel with defensive capabilities, but also would support “actions right now to try to avert the offensive in Rafah, something that I think would be counterintuitive and, and frankly, something that would be counter to the security of Israel.” Hamm and Campos-Medina drew a clearer line, calling for an immediate ceasefire and rejecting aid to Israel. “If [a ceasefire] does not happen, that will lead to a regional wide conflagration and possibly a world war,” Hamm said. And Campos-Medina, asked, “If we want peace, why are you continuing to indiscriminately arm Israel to continue on a war against the people of Palestine?” In their remarks Monday night, Campos-Medina noted she’s the only woman on stage, saying New Jerseyans “need to send a woman champion to Washington, D.C.” and pledging to be a strong voice for reproductive rights. All three candidates said they wouldn’t accept compromises on a right to abortion. Capos-Medina pledged to fight for workers, reproductive rights, a “fair” tax code, and higher taxes on billionaires. “This Jersey girl has a record of fighting against billionaires,” she said. She called for a wealth tax on billionaires and repeal of corporate tax breaks, and called for more investment in affordable housing and transit from Congress. Hamm played up his history of activism, saying no one on this stage has been on more picket lines or confronted more government officials. He said he’d fight to make free universal healthcare “a reality in our lifetime” and promised to introduce legislation to protect hospitals and health infrastructure. And he said he would put forward legislation to deal with the problems of home foreclosure and tenant eviction. Hamm said New Jersey badly needs “property tax relief,” adding that property taxes are “too damn high.” He joined the other two candidates on stage in saying they’d support a repeal of the Trump-era $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, or SALT. For many New Jerseyans, SALT has provided key tax relief in a state with some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Kim leaned into the everyman image he’s cultivated since being seen after the Jan. 6 riot helping clean up the Capitol floor. He described himself as a “public school kid,” the son of parents who immigrated to the U.S. 50 years ago. And he said with the county in a “challenging” time, he’s ready to “step up with the vigor and velocity that’s necessary to take this on.” On several issues, the candidates were in lockstep. They all said they’d support ending the filibuster, expanding the Supreme Court and pursuing reparations for the descendants of slaves. The candidates are seeking to replace indicted Sen. Robert Menendez, whose trial on bribery and corruption charges started Monday. Menendez is not running as a Democrat in this year’s election, but has said he’ll consider running as an independent following his trial. Hotel entrepreneur Curtis Bashaw, Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner and Tabernacle resident Justin Murphy and Pemberton resident Albert Harshaw will compete in this year’s Republican primary. But New Jersey last elected a Republican to the Senate in 1972. New Jersey party primaries are closed — meaning only registered members of a party may take part. An unaffiliated voter, however, can declare an affiliation as late as Election Day, June 6. The last day to register as a voter in time for the primary election is Tuesday, June 4. Audio of the debate will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on 93.9 FM and streamed at wnyc.org Monday at 8 p.m. The “Vote Your Values: 2024 New Jersey Democratic Senate Primary Debate” was hosted by the ACLU of New Jersey, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and Salvation and Social Justice, in partnership with WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio. (Gothamist and WNYC are both owned by New York Public Radio.)

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