MacArthur, Kim Dramatically Opposed on Third District Issues

But Campaigns Agree on Area Joint Military Base
Oct 24, 2018
Photos by: Ryan Morrill and Jack Reynolds Andy Kim (left) and Tom MacArthur (right).

The 2018 race in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes western Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, is a battle between two-term incumbent GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur and Democratic challenger Andy Kim, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration. The race, according to polls – including one Stockton University released on Oct. 15 that showed MacArthur ahead by two percentage points – is razor close, with many having Kim in a narrow lead. Election forecasters, including The Cook Political Report, rate the race as either a toss-up or tilting Democratic.

Kim, though, has a tough row to hoe considering MacArthur won his first election in 2014 by 10 points and was re-elected in 2016 by some 20 percentage points, and the fact that President Trump took the district with a 6.2 percent advantage over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Let’s look at some personal basics first.

MacArthur, 58, grew up in Connecticut and received an undergraduate degree from Hofstra University. A former insurance executive and a multimillionaire, he culminated his insurance career as chairman and CEO of York Risk Services Group for 11 years. MacArthur has been married to his wife, Debbie, for 35 years and has two adopted grown children. The couple lost another child, Grace, at the age of 11. Before being elected to Congress, MacArthur was a councilman in Randolph from 2011 to 2013, serving as that town’s mayor in 2013.

Kim, 36, was raised in Marlton, Burlington County. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and went on to earn a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He’s married to Kammy Lai and has two young sons, one of whom, August, was featured in a campaign ad that ended with the tag “I’m running in November – for August.” Kim worked as a conflict management specialist for the United States Agency for International Development in 2005; a strategic adviser to Generals David Petraeus and John Allen, commanders of the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Pakistan in 2011; a foreign affairs officer for the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2013; and the National Security Council director for Iraq from 2013 to 2015.


On the Issues

The Tom MacArthur for Congress website lists 11 issues. They include:

“Creating Jobs & Economic Growth” – MacArthur is all in with the Trump/GOP economic plan of lowering taxes and reducing regulations. His campaign says he took office in January 2015 and has since seen the unemployment rate in Burlington County drop from 6.4 percent to 3.6 percent while it fell from 7.8 percent to 4.4 percent in Ocean County. He’s leading with the economic argument, putting jobs and economic growth at the top of his list of issues.

“Delivering Middle-Class Tax Cuts” – MacArthur supported the GOP tax cuts, saying they increased take-home pay for middle-class New Jerseyans. He applauds large companies such as Comcast, Wells Fargo and Boeing for increasing their minimum wage to $15 an hour and doling out bonuses.

Tax cuts, though, are one target for Kim and other Democrats. They point out MacArthur authored an amendment to the GOP tax legislation that limited being able to deduct SALT (state and local taxes) from federal taxes to $10,000. Indeed, critics will point out MacArthur was the only New Jersey congressman – Republican or Democrat – to support the GOP tax bill. MacArthur responded by saying if he hadn’t gotten that amendment passed, New Jersey taxpayers would have lost all state and local deductions and claims the average family of four in his district will save over $2,000 a year.

“Working to Fix Healthcare” – This is the area where MacArthur is being attacked with the most vigor by Kim and Democrats. He was the author of “The MacArthur Amendment,” which pushed the GOP repeal effort of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, through the House of Representatives before the Republican bill met its demise in the Senate.

The MacArthur Amendment would have allowed states to waive essential health benefits such as maternity care and emergency-room visits – baseline benefits in Obamacare. That could have resulted in lower insurance costs but would produce so-called “skinny” insurance plans that didn’t cover nearly as many things. More importantly, the MacArthur Amendment would have allowed states to waive some aspects of community-rating rules.

Under Obamacare, insurers must charge the same price to all consumers in a certain area regardless of gender and preexisting conditions. But if the GOP repeal-and-replace legislation had passed, states could have gotten around that rule by providing some funding for people with preexisting conditions and forming “high risk pools.” That’s why Dems have accused MacArthur of trying to strip coverage for preexisting conditions, because it is probable or at least possible that insurance premiums would have skyrocketed for such people. MacArthur was, in a way, the point person for getting the GOP legislation through the House. Now he may be the Democrats’ number one target nationally when it comes to the issue of health care.

“Standing with Israel” – MacArthur agrees with President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as that country’s capital, saying Israel is “America’s most stable and reliable ally in all the Middle East,” and believes “we must continue to provide both economic and military aid to Israel, and work in concert with Israel and other allies to prevent dangerous actors in the region from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

“Gun Safety & the 2nd Amendment” – MacArthur is a strong 2nd Amendment supporter, saying citizens “have the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families, to hunt, to collect, and to shoot competitively or recreationally.” He has called for universal criminal and mental health background checks. His website doesn’t mention, however, that he was a co-sponsor of H.R. 38 in 2017, a bill that passed the House but not the Senate that supports “reciprocity,” where gun owners with a legal concealed carry permit in one state could travel to other states with their weapons.

“Promoting a Culture of Life” – MacArthur says abortion is a deeply personal issue. As mentioned earlier, the congressman and his wife lost a child at the age of 11. Doctors told them the child would be born with special needs and might not survive and recommended ending the pregnancy. They didn’t. MacArthur isn’t trying to repeal abortion, but he does support parental notification for minors and a ban on late-term abortions, and opposes using taxpayer money to fund abortions.

“Securing the Border & Immigration” – MacArthur says “we need comprehensive federal immigration reform that begins with strong and secure borders” but refrains from mentioning a wall. He does insist that any illegal immigrant who has committed a crime should immediately be returned to their country of origin. On the other hand, he supports “a compassionate legislative fix for young children who were brought here by their parents through no fault of their own, and have known no other home than America.” In other words, he supports DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, but only in combination with border security.

“Standing with Seniors” – MacArthur says Social Security is “a promise that must be kept to our citizens” and pledges to “protect and strengthen Medicare.” He opposes the one-payer healthcare system advocated by some Democrats, “Medicare for All,” saying it would destroy Medicare and “increase taxes and give expanded benefits to illegal immigrants.” Critics, though, say any GOP efforts to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare are code words for reducing benefits and increasing the age of eligibility.

“Bipartisan Leadership & Problem-Solving” – MacArthur says the nonpartisan Lugar Center ranked him as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, co-sponsoring and supporting more than 30 bills authored by Democrats.

“Heroin and Drug Addiction” – Many of the above-mentioned bills dealt with the nation’s opioid crisis because MacArthur is the Republican co-chairman of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, which has sponsored – and passed – numerous bills responding to the crisis. He also convinced the Trump administration to name Ocean County a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which delivers additional federal funds and resources to fight the problem.

“Bringing New Missions to the Joint Base” – MacArthur is a huge supporter of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. He was instrumental in convincing the Air Force to locate its new KC-46 air-to-air refueling fleet at JBMDL starting in 2020 and securing nearly $150 million in construction at the joint base to support that fleet. He feels the joint base is an integral part of his district, creating 42,000 local jobs and $7 billion in economic investment. The Air Force’s decision to base KC-46 tankers at JBMDL should go a long way in keeping the installation off future BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) lists.

Kim’s Priorities

And Issues

Kim has been critical of MacArthur for not being transparent, taking corporate donations, and, especially, not holding enough town hall meetings. He is promising to be different in the following contract:

“As a Member of Congress:

“I commit to holding at least one in-person town hall every month;

“I commit to not accept a dime from corporate PACs because I believe in a government that focuses on people, not corporations;

“I commit to providing daily reports on what I am working on, who I am meeting with, and how I plan to vote;

“I commit to holding public comment before every scheduled vote I take;

“I commit to always putting people before partisan politics.”

Kim titles his campaign platform “Of, By & For the People.”

Of the People continues along the line of his “contract.” He promises to seek campaign finance reform, fight against corruption in Washington (“Our leaders should absolutely be held to the highest of standards. Corruption, harassment of any kind, abuse of power, fraud, and other concerns must not be tolerated”), and end gerrymandering and voter suppression.

By the People means standing with American workers, veterans and retirees.

Kim wants to prioritize the American worker, with education being a key.

“As our economy changes, we must provide workers at all levels and ages access to job training to help ensure that they stay competitive. This means supporting unions, project labor agreements, a livable wage, safe work environments, and other critical initiatives.”

He also wants to support small businesses, with reinstating “net neutrality” a key in the age of the internet.

Kim is a strong supporter of “equal pay for equal work.” He wants to invest in the industries of the future and urges government support for STEM education, renewable energy, high-tech manufacturing, biotech and other fast-growing sectors. “Perhaps,” he says, “nowhere in the country is better suited for this type of high tech growth than New Jersey.”

The challenger wants to ensure a strong and efficient Veterans Administration and wants military credentials recognized in the civilian workforce.

He wants to make middle-class tax cuts permanent. Many people may not realize the tax cuts the GOP gave to corporations was permanent while the cuts for the middle class will expire within a few years.

Kim is a huge supporter of rebuilding American infrastructure, saying it could create a “new generation of jobs.”

He’s a supporter of relieving college loan debt by making college more affordable.

Kim was worried when he heard GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan say, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.” He says Social Security and Medicare need more support instead of a tax cut for “millionaires and corporations.” “A third of elderly Americans rely on Social Security for all of their income. We need to ensure they get what they need and explore ways to provide additional security.” He’s also for expanding retirement accounts, noting that “55 million workers don’t have a retirement savings plan through their employers.”

He also says, “We must find ways to keep prescription drug costs down by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for drugs and medical equipment and by requiring price justifications by pharmaceutical companies.”

Lowering prescription prices leads to the For the People part of his platform. He also wants to get everyone in the country covered by health insurance, sounding a lot like a Medicare for All supporter. “This is our new moon shot,” he says, “and we can save countless lives in the process.”

Kim wants to permanently fund the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), protect people with preexisting conditions, expand veteran care so vets don’t have to travel as far or wait as long for treatment. He supports community health centers, especially in rural areas.

Other areas of concern for Kim include protecting the joint base (he would seek to serve on the House Armed Services Committee), ending veteran homelessness, protecting the country from national security threats, recovering from Superstorm Sandy and preparing for the next superstorm by raising the heights of homes, stopping offshore drilling, treating the opioid epidemic as a national security crisis and dramatically increasing federal funding to fight the scourge, and treating climate change as a national security crisis.

— Rick Mellerup

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