TENAFLY — Rabbi Shmuley Boteach finally met his opponent in the race to represent the 9th Congressional District after complaining that Rep. Bill Pascrell was ignoring him.
Until the debate, Pascrell, who leads polls by a wide margin, had rarely engaged with Boteach. On Sunday, his measured delivery contrasted shapely with Boteach’s energetic attacks.
The two debated at Temple Sinai in Tenafly Sunday, clashing on their views of Israel and the economy.
Boteach said taxes were too high under the Democratic administration, crippling job growth.
“We have to reduce taxes and increase growth in order to show the American people that this is a nation that rewards opportunity,” he said.
Pascrell said Democrats had cut payroll taxes, but criticized the Republican doctrine of cutting taxes for the rich.
“I will not support trickle-down economics, that the top gets the skim of the milk,” Pascrell said.
Both men alluded frequently to the presidential election. Pascrell said he had introduced legislation that would stop American jobs from being sent overseas, while noting that Mitt Romney, and his former company, Bain Capital, supported outsourcing.
It’s a well worn line of attack by Democrats this election year, and Boteach accused Pascrell of hewing to the party line too often. Boteach said Pascrell had voted with Democrats 94% of the time in Congress.
Perhaps because of the setting, much of the debate revolved around each candidate’s stance on U.S.-Israeli relations. Boteach criticized Pascrell for signing a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to call for Israel to end a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The letter said the blockade had prevented humanitarian aid from reaching Palestinians, which Boteach called “slander.”
“Israel is a nation of the highest humanitarian principles,” Boteach said.
Pascrell said his record on Israel was “very clear. In fact, some have called it perfect.”
“I believe in a secure Israel,” he said. “I believe in a two-state solution.”
Boteach again criticized Pascrell for opposing the deportation of Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who has been accused of supporting Hamas. Pascrell defended Qatanani, citing him as one of the first imams to condemn the Sept. 11 attacks.
“You don’t have any proof that what you say is correct,” Pascrell said. “And I am not going to renounce anyone on hearsay.”
Both men had support from the crowd, but more seemed to side with Pascrell. Boteach drew boos when he said Pascrell wanted to be “anointed” to represent the Democratic-leaning 9th District.
“I’m fighting the entire Democratic establishment in this room,” Boteach said.
Pascrell and Boteach will debate two more times before the election.
Source: The Star Ledger