Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tom MacArthur and the empty chair By J.D. Mullane

Aimee Belgard, Democratic cadidate for New Jersey's 3rd congressional district, did not show for a chat with her GOP opponent, Tom MacArthur, hosted by Dom Giordano at 1210 WPHT Philly.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It was the bitter aftertaste of the Republican primary for Congress in the 3rd District that led me to believe that Tom MacArthur was just another elite party pick, a closet lib and probably a soak-the-rich socialist, too.

That’s because last spring, when tea party fave Steve Lonegan ran against MacArthur, the rebel conservative’s campaign attempted to change MacArthur’s name to Tom “He raised taxes as mayor of Randolph!” MacArthur.

There were other jibes. MacArthur was not authentically pro-life. MacArthur is an establishment stooge, a gutless RINO, etc.

None of it worked. MacArthur triumphed, although the former self-made insurance company CEO had to spend $2 million of his own cash to beat the insurgent Lonegan.

When I met MacArthur on Tuesday in Bordentown Township, his easygoing manner and reasonable answers cleansed the palate of bitter backwash. I rifled questions at him.

Q: Pro-life, or pro-choice?

A: “I’m pro-life. I’ll work with anybody to foster a culture that respects and honors life and respects women.”

Q: Does the Second Amendment give us the right to shoot ducks, or shoot tyrants?

A: “The Second Amendment gives you the right to protect your family, yourself and your property without relying on the state.”

Q: “Obamacare”: Repeal and replace, or mend it don’t end it?

A: “It needs to be repealed and replaced — replaced with free-market reforms to create more competition and lower costs, like allowing people to buy insurance across state lines.”

Q: Immigration: Amnesty, or send them back?

A: “You keep speaking in these either/ors,” he said, vaguely annoyed. “We need to return anyone who’s committed a crime to their country of origin. There needs to be a tough but fair path to citizenship. Paying back taxes, learning English, and getting at the back of the immigration line, so not to bump people who are trying to come here legally.”

Amnesty is one of two top issues MacArthur hears about as he campaigns. The other is the Obama economy and its lack of good jobs.

“People are out of work, or they’ve given up in despair. I hear a lot from people who are stuck in part-time jobs that don’t pay very well.

“On immigration, I hear from two sides. From people who feel they are paying taxes to support people who are here illegally, and I hear from businesses, manufacturers, farmers, restaurant owners who want…”

“Cheap labor?” I said.

“Who want access to labor. And they want some sort of program for it,” he said.

To stop the illegals from flowing in, he wants the National Guard deployed in the border states.

We met at Mastoris Diner. MacArthur appeared on Dom Giordano’s radio show on WPHT-AM (1210), which was broadcasting from the diner. MacArthur is soft-spoken. He looks like a guy who sells insurance, which is how he amassed his fortune, building York Risk Services.

He is a center-right guy in a center-right district that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Delaware River in Burlington and Ocean counties. His opponent is Democrat Aimee Belgard, a Burlington County freeholder. Belgard was invited on Giordano’s program, but didn’t show. Instead, a chair with her name on it was set up next to MacArthur.

Her campaign told me Belgard had more pressing (undisclosed) obligations. However, eight debates are set, the first to be recorded Friday in Trenton at the NJTV studios.

Skipping Giordano was an amateur error. When a 50,000-watt radio station invites you to tell people why they should vote for you, you show up.

Polls show the race is tied. MacArthur told me his internal polling shows him ahead, which makes sense. Except for the brief Jon Adler interlude, 3rd District voters have picked Republicans for a century.

If Belgard wins, though, I will invite her to Mastoris Diner and she can pull up an empty chair, where I’ll eat crow.

J.D. Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or Twitter: @jdmullane

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