Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) and Republican challenger David Richter talked about state and national business issues in a debate sponsored the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey.
Kim touted his record of bi-partisanship during his two years as the congressman from New Jersey’s 3rd district, and celebrated his endorsement from the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The national organization, the nation’s largest business advocacy group, had backed incumbent Tom MacArthur for re-election over Kim in 2018.
Kim said “there’s a lot we need to do” to make it easier for people to start businesses and create job, but maintains the future of New Jersey’s economy is also connected to quality of life issues in the state
“We need to increase and support infrastructure spending,” Kim said, noting that quality schools will help keep people from leaving the state. “The coronavirus crisis has devastated our state… that’s why I’ve been pressing for federal spending to help get us through this crisis.
Kim accused Richter of opposing federal aid for New Jersey.
“We want to make sure we’re delivering for this state,” said Kim.
The two candidates also took opposite views about where the coronavirus is headed.
“My opponent is someone who has said that he believes the worst is behind us when it comes to the coronavirus crisis. I fundamentally disagree,” said Kim. “I really think we need to make sure we are standing strong, staying vigilant on this and getting the support our communities need.”
Richter took a different view.
“I do believe that the worst of the pandemic is behind us,” he said.
Before running for Congress, Richter was the CEO of Hill International, one of the nation’s largest construction companies.
He said he would use his private sector experience to help create jobs in South Jersey.
“We need to change the laws. We need to change the tax codes,” Richter said.
Kim slammed Richter’s record as a CEO.
“You can’t trust David Richter,” he said.
Kim accused Richter of moving his company out of his home state.
“When he had the opportunity, he actually took his family business and moved it out of state for a $1.7 million tax incentive.,” Kim charged. “He hasn’t kept his jobs and his business here in New Jersey.”
Richter accused Kim of being entirely too close to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership.
“Andy Kim is what they call a back bencher. He follows the lead of his party. Bi-partisanship is more talk than action,” Richter said. “We need leaders who can change the environment.”
Richter sought to tie Kim to Gov. Phil Murphy, who announced a deal to raise taxes on New Jersey’s highest earners while offering a middle class tax rebate.
“I don’t see Congressman Kim standing up to the governor or the state legislature on legislation that’s bad for the economy and bad for the people of the 3rd district,” he said.
The Republican businessman also called on Richter to resign from the Congressional Progressive Caucus “where he hangs out with AOC and Bernie Sanders,” claiming it doesn’t represent South Jersey values.
Kim lamented the “toxicity” of campaigns, saying that he expects those who want him to lose his seat to question his patriotism.
“The fundamental part of this job is about helping people, and I know that gets lost so often, that there are people in Congress, people in Washington, D.C., that have lost focus on this,” Kim said. “It gets caught up in this tribal game of politics…I’m sick and tired of that.”
Richter said he would not attack Kim’s patriotism.
“The rhetoric and the accomplishments of Mr. Kim don’t line up,” Richter stated. “The reality is the things that he votes on in Congress don’t match up.”
The debate was moderated by Christina Renna, the South Jersey Chamber president.