In the midst of the debate over voter registration, mail-in ballots and what type of IDs (if any) are appropriate when voting in person, we the voters are faced with another election where we must decide between candidates who are running for local and state office.

It has been 20 years since Michael Moore ran a campaign for write-in votes (for a Ficus tree) against then-Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who was an incumbent in a district that he won decidedly for more than 25 years. In 2018, a group from Montclair formed “11th for Change” to get the vote out and elect and a new congressperson to this seat. 

It has been three years since then, and the same story is occurring in the 34th Legislative District in New Jersey. In the 34th Legislative District, two politicians have been elected to their seats for more than 25 years, largely unopposed, state Sen. Nia Gill and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin. In November, the electorate will elect a senator and two Assembly members from the 34th (this includes Clifton, Montclair, Orange and East Orange).

While much can be said about Montclair being a community that is inclusive and tolerant, it does not appear that the current elected state politicians from Montclair share the same level of open communication that 11th for Change fought so hard for in their own backyard.  When is the last time a public debate occurred for these positions by the candidates?

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or independent, voters deserve to know what the candidates who run for office stand for. How they communicate with others and how they advocate for their constituents are just two items that debates can shed light on. A debate among candidates allows voters to decide which candidate would best support them and showcases the oratory skills that would be used in the New Jersey Legislature, debating bills and issues.

In most communities the League of Women Voters sponsor debates amongst candidates. The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area provides unbiased, nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process and issues I am an ardent supporter of the League of Women Voters in New Jersey, as I have seen the positive work that they have done in marginalized communities.

I, for one, believe that such a debate of the issues by both sides in the 34th Legislative District is what is required and necessary, as we live in the United States of America, not in Russia or China, where opposing views are not tolerated. To not have a debate would be no different than running unopposed and running a write-in campaign for a Ficus tree.

Robert Crook

Editor’s note: A representative of the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area told Montclair Local the group sought to organize a debate among 34th District candidates, but was unable to secure clear commitments when the group reached out in August. 


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