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

Ex-Obama official, New Jersey Republican present moderate credentials as closing arguments
© Greg Nash/YouTube screenshot

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 MacArthurRepublican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey 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.

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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 PelosiBattle over reopening schools heats up Pelosi: Trump wearing a mask is 'an admission' that it can stop spread of coronavirus Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools 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 MoultonHouse panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill 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 TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' 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.

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"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 ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneySome in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan Biggs, Massie call on Trump to remove troops from Afghanistan Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide 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 WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' 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.