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New Jersey Jewish News - "In bid for House, Lance reaches across the aisle"

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Location: Kenilworth, NJ

New Jersey Jewish News - "In bid for House, Lance reaches across the aisle"

Describing himself as both a "moderate Republican" and a "fiscal conservative," Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 23)is running hard for the District 7 congressional seat that fellow Republican Mike Ferguson is vacating.

Seated on a bench outside a diner in Kenilworth, the veteran state legislator told NJ Jewish News his main reason for running in a closely contested race against Democrat Linda Stender is because "the United States is at a crossroads. I want to help get our fiscal house in order. Unless we do, we will live in a much diminished society. This is the critical issue confronting the American nation."

Looking to the future, he said, "America's $10 trillion debt is rising rapidly, and ultimately we will cede leadership to another part of the world," noting that the United States owes considerable debt to China.

Promising to continue the voting pattern he established during 11 years in the State Assembly and the past seven in the State Senate, Lance said he would vote against any tax increases because "the worst time to raise taxes is when there is a recession or an economic slowdown."

Even as he noted that much of America's fiscal deficit is due to military spending, Lance said he was "pleased that progress has been made in Iraq and we can leave Iraq relatively quickly without setting an artificial deadline."

Although he supported the "surge" of American troops and said he believes it has reduced violence in Iraq, Lance added that he is "critical of the way the war was waged initially" and if elected "would certainly review all the information placed before me before I ever voted for military action."

In further criticism of the Bush administration, the candidate said, "The United States should not engage in torture. We should not engage in waterboarding. We should close down Guantanamo. Those who are tortured usually end up giving false information, and it is a threat to our own soldiers."

Lance said he is "very concerned about Israel's security. Iran is a significant threat to world peace. I want strong diplomacy first, but nothing off the table. It would be intolerable for the United States and for Israel to live with Iranian nuclear weapons."

A strong supporter of John McCain for president, Lance began the election cycle as a backer of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He said he hopes "Romney is in contention to be the vice presidential running mate."

Unlike the majority of people in his party, Lance describes himself as "pro-choice" on women's reproductive rights. But if McCain chooses a pro-choice running mate, the legislator said, "given the alternative of Sen. Barack Obama," Republicans will still vote for McCain.

Calling himself as an "environmentalist," Lance said he advocates "subsidizing alternative sources of energy — wind and solar power." But he is skeptical of nuclear power plants, saying, "My concern is, what are we going to do with the waste?" And he opposes oil drilling offshore and in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.

"I consider being a conservationist part of the conservative view of government," he said.

Although he opposes single-payer medical insurance, Lance said, "Health care should be made available to as many Americans as possible," enabled by caps on medical malpractice damages and by making sure that small businesses can provide insurance to employees.

He advocates a bipartisan congressional commission to study the touchy issues of revising Social Security and Medicare, warning that "the crisis in Medicare will come sooner than the crisis in Social Security."

Lance said he "favors a comprehensive proposal" on immigration reform that "first would secure our borders" and have people currently in the country illegally "go to the back of the line" in applying for citizenship.

He identifies himself as a "moderate — neither an extreme liberal nor an extreme conservative. There are far too few moderates in Congress," he lamented. "There is a lack of bipartisan cooperation. In my responsibilities in Trenton, I have been known as someone who can work with those on the other side of the aisle.

"It is clear to me that the Democrats are going to remain in control of both houses of Congress, and it is important to have Republicans who can work with the Democrats. I would hope it is important for the Democrats to recognize there are Republicans who want to reach out to achieve a bipartisan consensus."

"I think my views are the views of the people in this district — fiscally responsible government, social moderation, strong environmental protection, and ethical integrity."

Lance lives with his wife, Heidi, and their Labrador retriever, Fritz, "in a farmhouse, not a farm," in Hunterdon County. Their son, Peter, is a junior at the University of Wisconsin.

"I come from a middle-class background," the candidate stressed. "I attended public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. The values of education and tolerance for everyone were always strong in our house."

Reinforcing his concern for fuel-efficient transportation, Lance gestured toward a parking lot where his 2004 four-cylinder Japanese-designed American car was parked. "I have always tried to practice what I preach," he said.

"I favor making sure that America can continue to be a beacon of hope and democracy in the world. That includes making sure our international reputation improves, as I believe it will."

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