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 MacArthurThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 10 things we learned from the midterms New Jersey New Members 2019 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution 5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations GOP lawmaker: Trump has engaged in multiple actions that 'meet the threshold for impeachment' 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 Moulton2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults 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 TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens 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 ScaliseTrump encouraged Scalise to run for governor in Louisiana: report We owe a debt of gratitude to all our police officers and their families House votes to extend flood insurance program MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe GOP's commitment to electing talented women can help party retake the House GOP launches anti-BDS discharge petition Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments 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 WarrenHere are the potential candidates still eyeing 2020 bids Sanders unveils education plan that would ban for-profit charter schools Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off 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.