Ex-Obama official, New Jersey Republican present moderate credentials as closing arguments

Ex-Obama official, New Jersey Republican present moderate credentials as closing arguments
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ROEBLING, N.J. — In what has become one of the most contested and contentious House races in the country, two-term GOP Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 10 things we learned from the midterms MORE and his Democratic challenger Andy Kim, a former Obama national security adviser, have been touting their ability to work across the aisle even while painting each other as partisan extremists.

With the sprawling district split between the traditionally conservative Ocean County and Burlington County, which supported Clinton over Trump in 2016, these candidates are sparring over who has stronger bipartisan credentials.

During a Friday event, the two-term MacArthur told supporters while he has a record of working across the aisle, Democratic leadership is the “most partisan group that I've encountered in my years in Congress,” alleging if they take back the majority the political divide will widen.

But Kim said while his policy positions often contrast with MacArthur’s, the accusation he’s a radical leftist is baseless, arguing he has been a career public servant that’s worked under both parties. The congressional hopeful has also been vocal in his call for new Democratic leadership, asserting he does not think Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Mnuchin reach 'near-final agreement' on budget, debt ceiling Wendy Davis launches bid for Congress in Texas Steyer calls on Pelosi to cancel 'six-week vacation' for Congress MORE (D-Calif.) — a common target in GOP political attack ads — is the right choice for Speaker if Democrats flip the House.

“From the most liberal in the district to the most conservative in this district, everyone's saying we need a new generation of leaders stepping up right now, that a dysfunctional Washington is something that they don't feel is looking out for them,” Kim told The Hill Saturday while volunteering at a VFW during a campaign stop with Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonStanley McChrystal endorses Moulton for president 2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally 2020 Democratic candidates rip Trump remarks at campaign rally MORE (D-Mass.) in Roebling, N.J. “What they ask for is a steady hand at the wheel.”

Kim went as far as to say he could see himself supporting parts of Trump’s plan for prescription drugs — a topic he says voters feel is a pressing issue in the area.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE just announced a prescription drug proposal to lower costs just a couple of days ago,” he said. “I think there's a lot of good things in there that encouraged me that he's focused on that issue. Both sides of the aisle need to step up now and do what the American people call upon us.”

Kim said despite the differences between the two counties in his district, voters across the board have voiced concerns over the same issues.

"I don't see this as two different districts, I see it as one because when I go across the district whether it's here on the western most-side or over in Ocean County where I'll be out there a little later, people are still talking about health care and taxes," he said. "They're still talking about having wages so they can raise their family - the issues are exactly the same."

While the Kim camp highlighted that MacArthur voted with the president more than any other New Jersey Republican — 95 percent according to FiveThirtyEight — MacArthur asserts he’s not afraid to disagree with the president and feels his time in Congress reflects the needs of his politically diverse district.

"You don't just navigate in an election, you have to navigate it as a representative and this is what I tell people all the time I have one foot planted in Ocean County and one foot planted in Burlington County," he said. "You have to recognize the need to be bipartisan, the need to listen to both sides and try to come up with solutions that are good for the district."

MacArthur is arguing that the Democrats are not looking for compromise.

"They [Democrats] are all about trying to divide America for one reason — they think they can exploit that and get power. And they want power especially now because they hate this president," MacArthur told a crowd of roughly 50 supporters during a campaign event in Toms River, where he was joined by House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm Democrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants Democratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyTrump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets Liz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender MORE (R-Wyo.) on Friday.

"They hate this president, they hate what he's doing. They hate that America is moving back to the center when it was moving from their perspective nicely to the left."

MacArthur is under siege by his opponent for his role in crafting the House-passed Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and for being the sole Republican in the Garden State to vote in favor of the GOP tax bill. Many lawmakers in New Jersey opposed the bill due to its changes to the state and local deduction.

But despite the attacks, the New Jersey Republican is adamantly defending his record, telling The Hill that 80 percent of New Jersey residents have seen lower taxes.

He added that he believes South Jersey particularly benefited from the sweeping legislation. He also noted his role in putting together the bipartisan opioid legislation recently signed into law.

In turn, MacArthur has gone after Kim for allegedly embellishing his resume and fundraising with liberal politicians like Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren warns another 'economic crash' is coming The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Biden's lead narrows in early voting states: poll MORE (D-Mass.) — making the case his challenger’s positions would unravel recent economic growth.

“My opponent is a highly partisan guy, he's running to protest Trump, he's been an unemployed protester for three years,” MacArthur told The Hill. ”He last worked in 2015 in the Obama administration, I don't even know why he left a year early.”

Kim served as the director for Iraq on Obama's National Security Council from 2013 through 2015 prior to launching his congressional bid in 2017.