With the election barely four weeks away, organizers of three candidate forums have begun mapping out questions for the events. The first of them will take place this Sunday, Oct. 7, and feature 5th District Congressman Scott Garrett, the Republican incumbent, and his Democratic challenger, Teaneck councilman Adam Gussen.
“I’ve got six topics, but chances are we will only get to four,” said Dan Kirsch, who will moderate that first event. Kirsch is the past chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which is sponsoring the forums together with The Jewish Standard.
The events are being billed as candidate forums rather than debates, Kirsch said, because a debate would involve more back and forth discussion. A forum is an opportunity for the candidate to express their views on specific topics.
“We have fewer questions and more time for them to answer, so they can go into a little more depth, rather than just deliver a sound bite,” he said.
“The candidate can’t simply say they support strong U.S.-Israel relations; they have to go into more detail with why and how.
“We give them three minutes to respond to each question. Whoever goes second has an opportunity to point out where there position may be different. Then the candidate who goes first can clean anything up with a one minute rebuttal,” he said.
The precise questions are being kept under wraps, but Joy Kurland, the JRCR’s director, is willing to reveal the general topics.
“There will be questions related to Israel and the Middle East; employment; Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; and poverty,” she said.
That is true for the two congressional forums – this Sunday’s, with Garrett and Gussen, as well as next Sunday’s, which will feature 9th District Congressman Bill Pascrell, the Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. For the forum that will feature the four candidates for the two open country freeholder seats, “we’re looking at special needs, senior transportation, and senior services” as topics for discussion, Kurland said. “Also the safety net; job growth, and economic stimulation. And I think we have something about the possible ramifications of a consolidation of county police and the sheriff’s office.”
Kirsch has moderated forums that have included Rep. Garrett. He said that attendees shouldn’t expect surprises, “but because we do give the candidates more time to go into depth on some of the topics, you really get a sense of where the candidates may have similar views and may have different views on the topics.”
Kurland said that the forums provide an opportunity for voters to become educated about the candidates.
“Being educated and informed as a voter is very important,” she said. “People should really avail themselves of the opportunity to learn more.”