While both Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Dist. 5) and his Democratic challenger, Wyckoff attorney Josh Gottheimer, are strong supporters of Israel and opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, they disagree bitterly on virtually every other issue as Garrett fights to hold onto the seat he has held since 2003.
In a series of responses to e-mailed questions from NJ Jewish News, Garrett wrote that he is running for reelection with a vow to fix “the problems with the economy and national security” caused by “the failed policies of the Obama administration…. At a time when America is facing a growing global threat of Islamic terror, we need strong leadership to help protect our country.” He called the past eight years under the Obama White House “disastrous.”
Garrett said he supports his fellow Republican, Donald Trump, for president, noting that “while I don’t agree with Mr. Trump on every issue, I’m committed to seeing Hillary Clinton defeated and to seeing Republicans elected across the country at every level this fall.”
Gottheimer is a strong Clinton supporter.
Questioned about some of the criticisms of his record launched by his Democratic opponent, Garrett charged Gottheimer with telling a series of lies. Garrett said his challenger hurled “not only a lie but an insult” when he said the congressman opposed federal health-care funds for the injured first responders to the 9/11 terror attacks. “Like his mentors, the Clintons, Mr. Gottheimer seems to have an uneasy relationship with the truth,” Garrett wrote. “Mr. Gottheimer will do and say anything to win an election or get a quick five-second sound bite.”
In an Aug. 2 interview, Gottheimer told NJJN, “Last year [Garrett] voted 13 times against preventing terrorists from buying assault weapons.” (See related story.)
In response, Garrett said, “I believe that terrorists, criminals, and the mentally ill should not be able to obtain weapons. I support legislation to do just that. We must keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally disturbed, and terrorists.”
The congressman said he did indeed support the flying of the Confederate flag in national cemeteries.
“I see the Confederate flag for what it is — a symbol of hate and oppression. My vote was to protect the First Amendment, which means nothing if it does not protect unpopular speech. Federal cemeteries allow Confederate flags to be displayed two days a year at private expense. In fact, the National Park Service only allows the flag to be flown where it provides historic contexts.”
Garrett said he also “fully supported” Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and its state legislature’s move to ban the Confederate flag from its statehouse in July 2015 after a white supremacist shot and killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston church.
Gottheimer called “abhorrent” an alleged statement by Garrett that “gay people should not be allowed to run for Congress.” Here is how Garrett responded:
“This is yet another lie from my opponent — one that I have denied several times on the record — and yet the media covering this race seems more preoccupied with sensational accusations than facts,” wrote the congressman. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I believe in the right of all Americans to run for Congress. Period.”
Garrett was asked about Gottheimer’s statement that “it is particularly galling” that the Fifth District is “one of the top-three tax-paying districts in the country, and we get back 33 cents for every dollar we pay out in federal taxes, money that is needed to replace aging fire engines and for training to fight lone-wolf terrorists and for crumbling roads and bridges.”
“I know that people in New Jersey pay far too much in taxes — so I’ve never voted to raise taxes,” Garrett replied. “We send too much of our hard-earned money to Washington, and then New Jersey taxpayers and their families are forced to beg for pennies in return. That’s wrong, and I have a plan to fix the broken system, keep more of our money in our own pockets, and make sure that services we need right here in New Jersey are fully funded.”
Reminding voters that he always opposes tax increases, Garrett wrote that his goal “is that your money stays where it belongs — in your wallet. My opponent has found a deceptive way to sound like a fiscal conservative. But what he really wants is for you to send more of your hard-earned money to Washington so that he, not you, decides how it is spent.”
The 57-year-old Garrett was born in Englewood. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Montclair State University and a law degree from Rutgers School of Law in Camden. A resident of Wantage, he attends the evangelical Federated Church in Lafayette Township.