Speaking about the war and Wall Street, 2nd Congressional District candidates made their pitches to Cape May County voters Tuesday night at a candidates' forum.
With two weeks to Election Day, six candidates took the stage at the Middle Township Performing Arts Center, where the targets of choice were the incumbent congressman and the existing congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.
It also was the second meeting in two days for Republican incumbent Rep. Frank LoBiondo and Democratic challenger David Kurkowski, who debated Monday at Richard Stockton College.
At Tuesday's forum, Kurkowski sided with Democratic presidential candidate Barrack Obama for a troop withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months. "History is going to look back and say this was a tragedy for our nation," Kurkowski said.
The U.S. should leave Iraq and turn its attention to a greater national security threat - Afghanistan, he said.LoBiondo said the country needs to make sure a premature withdrawal does not leave Iraq vulnerable to the influence of a rogue nation.
"There are huge successes in Iraq compared to where we were two years ago," LoBiondo said. Peter Boyce, of the Constitution Party, said troops need to leave Iraq and instead protect the country's borders. "I say tomorrow let's leave," said Jason Grover, of the Green Party.
Tuesday's forum was sponsored by the Cape May County League of Women Voters. Candidates answered questions posed by the moderator Donna Lawrence and did not debate.
The candidates' party affilations ranged from the major to the more obscure ones such as the Socialist Party, whose candidate, Constantino Rozzo, said in his opening statement: "The Reaganomic Good Ship Lollipop has struck its iceberg."
But various candidates took their opportunities to jab at the incumbent LoBiondo when they had the chance, particularly on his opposition to a recent $700 billion financial plan. Kurkowksi said that without the bailout, the economy would have stopped like an engine without oil. But at least one candidate supported LoBiondo's decision. "Al Capone would have nothing on these mugs," Boyce said said of the bailout. "This is the greatest heist in history."
Gary Stein, who is running as an independent candidate, said LoBiondo had the luxury of opposing the publicly unpopular plan without having to be a deciding vote on the issue.
LoBiondo defended his opposition to the plan. It was hurried through and lacked oversight and other stipulations Congress could have imposed, he said. "Every time Congress has tried to do anything really big really fast, they've screwed it up," he said.
The candidates also were asked about the Patriot Act and the protection of civil liberties while fighting terrorism. LoBiondo said the act was designed to help America fight terrorism and any abuses of the Patriot Act should be brought to light and corrected. "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," he said. "We just don't want to repeat another Sept. 11."
Kurkowksi called the Patriot Act "a gross invasion." "Ben Franklin once said, 'He who sacrifices security for liberty deserves neither,'" Rozzo said.
The sprawling 2nd Congressional District covers all of Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem counties, as well as parts of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.
The election is Nov. 4.