Pallone, Little vie for sixth NJ district
Although Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. has held the congressional seat of the 6th district of New Jersey for 22 years, his challenger believes he has lost touch with his constituents.
"There's a disconnect between the people of district six and their elected representative," said Anna Little, the Republican candidate facing Pallone. "He does not listen to them. He thinks he knows better than they do, and they are irate."
But Pallone feels the opposite and believes he is in touch with his constituents, especially students, considering the University falls within his district's territory.
"A main issue I've been working on is trying to help students to get additional help paying for college education, because I'm concerned about the fact that the cost of tuition and the cost of an education is rising," he said. "I don't want the cost to continue to go up."
As a graduate of Rutgers Law School and former assistant professor at Cook College briefly, Pallone said he understands the student needs and their dependence on the government's help.
"When I graduated in the late '70s, it was maybe $325 for first-year law school tuition," he said. "I had a scholarship or loan that paid for it. I didn't have to pay any tuition essentially. Well now, tuition is a lot, and that's why we need to do more in terms of Pell Grants, work-study and student loans."
During his time in Congress, Pallone said they passed pieces of legislation such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which made major increases to Pell Grants and also extended work-study programs.
Congress also made changes to the student loan programs that now involve direct student loans, rather than having to go through banks and pay their interest rates, Pallone said.
"These are ways of trying to basically provide student loans or grants or work-study so that students have an easier time paying to college education," he said.
While his opponent is supportive of grants, Little believes simply increasing the availability of government aid is not enough and might even be detrimental.
"We need to make sure that the grants that are available for access to college education are functioning in a manner which is helping the economy," she said. "I do not like the government takeover of the college loans."
Little said it eliminated the industry from our economy at a time when people need jobs and that it will also drive interest rates up.
"The best that I can do for those of you who are actually attending college and looking for jobs when you get out … is straighten out this economy," she said.
Since filing for candidacy in April, jobs and unemployment in the state are issues Little has been focusing on throughout her campaign.
About 86,000 jobs were lost in New Jersey since January 2009, and since May 2009, the state has been at a stagnant unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, which does not necessarily indicate that people have stopped losing jobs, Little said.
"It just means those who are falling off the unemployment roles are falling onto either a welfare role or leaving with family or working off-the-books and therefore falling off the radar, and other people are still losing jobs to maintain that stagnant unemployment rate," she said.
Little said this was a bad sign for New Jersey and the stimulus that was implemented has not created any jobs.
Instead, she proposes a different approach of reducing taxes by pushing tax cuts and reforming tax structure.
While Little considers a flat tax, where all citizens or households pay the same rate, as an option, she believes there are other ways to achieve her goal.
"I'm really a proponent of the fair tax, that would be a construction-based tax elimination of the income tax … it would mean we wouldn't have to report as we do on April 15," she said. "It would be just another day in your life."
This structure would put business and government on the same side in regard to development, Little said. Rather than taking money away from business operation the government will receive profit at the end of the production line.
Another issue she plans to tackle, if elected, is health care reform.
Little currently serves as the mayor of Highlands, N.J., and focuses largely on water transportation and environmental issues.
"I've been responsible for the establishment of the first completely active environmental commission," she said.
Pallone is not a stranger to environmental action either. He said one of the biggest issues he has dealt with over the years is cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, two kinds of waste sites found in New Jersey.
"Middlesex County has more of those sites than any other county in the state. And the state has more than any other state in the country," he said. "I'm a sponsor of the brownfield legislation, that provides money back to the states to clean up brownfield sites."
Although there is a little more than a month left in the election, Little and Pallone have not yet faced off in a debate.
"He's had four opportunities [to debate] and he has shot me down four times," Little said. "I am going to continue to endeavor to have this man sit side-by-side and give the people of district six the opportunity to make an informed decision on Nov. 2."
But Liz Duthie, campaign manager for Pallone for Congress, said the office has not received a single request from Little's campaign and neither have they made an attempt to talk about a debate with them.
"Let there be no doubt about our willingness and desire to debate Anna Little on the issues and to challenge her on her policy positions," Duthie said. "We believe a full airing of the sharp contrasts between Anna Little and Frank Pallone will help define the choice for the voters in the 6th District."
Duthie said they have accepted an invitation to debate on Oct. 17, a few weeks before the November midterm elections, to be moderated by the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization experienced in hosting debates.
"We don't know if the Little campaign has agreed to participate," she said.