Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Sen. Loretta Weinberg stressed that a Republican victory in the gubernatorial election would result in “national repercussions” during an open forum on Sept. 30 sponsored by the College Democrats.
Despite arriving 45 minutes late, Weinburg covered an array of topics including Gov. Jon Corzine’s relationship with President Obama, higher education and gun control.
Weinberg said Corzine’s defeat would result in a push for conservative legislation by Republicans in Washington D.C. and would therefore result in problems for the President.
“A Republican victory would be a chink in his armor,” Weinberg said.
When asked how she would respond to students’ anger aimed at Corzine for increases in tuition costs, Weinberg responded that the governor’s progress in higher education was tailored more to students.
“We’re trying to help the individual student, rather than the institution through the use of TAG (Tuition Aid Grants) and the STARS (Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship Program)… these are tough economic times for everybody,” she said.
Weinberg also said Corzine is positioning the state in the right place for what Democrats believe will soon be “turning an economic corner” and that as they see state resources freeing up, their first priority will be to continue the expansion of educational opportunities “for all our kids.”
Students of various degrees of political zeal attended the forum, including some members of the College Republicans, although they left before Weinberg actually arrived.
“We want to show that Loretta Weinberg does not have support. New Jersey is in the worst business climate, and Corzine frankly hasn’t done anything … Students voted for Obama because they wanted change, so they should vote for Christie for the same reason,” said Gina Lauterio, vice chair of the College Republicans.
Lauterio also said that being liberal in college is seen as a cool thing, and that this is something that needs to be changed. When asked if anyone from the Christie campaign would be visiting the College, she said plans were not in place.
Lauterio and some other representatives from the College Republicans left the forum prior to Weinberg’s arrival due to the politician’s lateness.
“She’s 45 minutes late during midterms for students,” Lauterio said before leaving.
Brian Block, president of the College Democrats, commented on the departure.
“It’s unfortunate that they left. It’s good to have them here to bring in questions for debate,” he said.
In addition to school aid, Weinberg highlighted what she identified as the positive elements of Corzine’s administration. According to Weinberg, 600,000 children are covered under Corzine’s family care program. She also said the program is the same one former President George W. Bush vetoed before leaving office. Weinberg discussed Republican nominee Chris Christie’s promise of mandate-free health care, which she said would translate to mass problems for the public.
“When they need real health care, they won’t have it,” she said.
As a self-proclaimed sponsor of women’s health and gay marriage legislation, Weinberg intends to focus on Corzine’s family agenda if elected.
“Whoever has the job will be able to help set the standard, the stage, the grounders for what it will be in the future,” she said.
While Weinberg detailed her work on increased gun control, job creation in the private sector, increased pre-school funding and gang awareness and prevention in schools, there is one development which she hasn’t been a leading sponsor — the legalization of medical marijuana.
“I think that I would wait until I hear all the pros and cons of it. I think that medical marijuana, when carefully controlled and used in the right circumstances and the right reasons is something I’d consider,” she said in response to a question from the audience member.
In reference to the criticism of both parties for negative advertising, Weinberg agreed the summer advertisements for the election were too negative. Still, she said that recently the advertisements have aimed to reflect more of Corzine’s positive qualities. For some students these advertisements are their sole interaction with the election.
“We know it’s Corzine versus Christie, other than that you see the slander on TV,” Brenda Kish, junior early education major, said.
Though the audience fluctuated throughout the forum, some students attributed the scarcity to the College’s lack of political enthusiasm.
“I thought the auditorium would be packed, and there’s no one here. The College is absolutely apathetic,” junior secondary education major Eli Goldman said.
However, Erin Caragher, director of the youth vote for Yes We Can 2.0, a Democratic organization that focuses on reaching out to Obama voters, held that Weinberg’s appearance demonstrates the Corzine campaign’s efforts to involve youth in the election.
“Chris Christie isn’t engaging college campuses like Corzine. Christie isn’t encouraging young people to vote,” Caragher said.
Throughout the forum Weinberg expressed confidence in winning the election due to the result of recent polls, which she said have indicated that the difference between each candidate’s support has declined.
“This is a democratic state and the Democrats are coming home,” she said.