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District 11 Congressional Debate Hosted in Concert Hall

by Annabelle Smith | Cartoonist and Staff Writer

5 mins read

Rates of civic engagement among students continue to rapidly rise nationwide. According to the Institute of Politics at Harvard, an expanding 36% of young Americans consider themselves politically active. Drew University is no exception — the previous month saw students attending a climate strike in New York City with the promise of more rallies to come, and numerous advertisements for political clubs line the bulletin boards of Brothers College. The recent hosting of District 11’s congressional debate at the DOYO’s Concert Hall is yet another example of Drew’s political engagement.

Candidates Joseph Biasco, Mikie Sherrill and Paul DeGroot, who are competing to represent New Jersey’s 11th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, debated this past Tuesday on a variety of issues. The event was organized by the Women’s Voter League, a nonpartisan organization focused on providing reliable voter information, and Morristown’s local chapter of the NAACP. While the atmosphere in the room grew tense at times, an unavoidable consequence of the country’s current political climate, the candidates were relatively cordial to one another. 

Mikie Sherrill is running for reelection this year. Her main issues of interest are the rapid inflation rates in New Jersey and womens’ healthcare rights — specifically access to legal abortion.

Joseph Biasco is the independent candidate running this year. He has background experience as a police officer and his main interests focus on uncovering various perceived lies and false accusations made by current organizations, specifically voter fraud and vaccination information.

Paul DeGroot, the chosen Republican candidate for district 11, and his background as  Patterson’s county prosecutor directly influences his main points of interest. Similarly to Sherrill, his focus is on crime rate and New Jersey’s blooming inflation. 

So, what is the need-to-know for a young voter interested in their policies? Well, here’s the scoop.

On legalizing marijuana and other drugs: Contrary to what one might assume from their legal background, all candidates agree that legalization of marijuana was a solid act by the New Jersey legislature. Sherill and Biasco made a point to specifically address and call out the over-incarceration of nonviolent drug offenses.

On federal abortion regulation: All candidates are pro-choice to varying degrees of tolerance. Sherrill vehemently backed Roe v. Wade, whereas DeGroot believes abortion justification should be limited and fathers/families should be more involved in the decision process (rather than just the physician and the mother). Biasco, despite his moral withholdings on abortion, didn’t think the federal government should be allowed to regulate abortion laws — rather, the people, through a referendum, should decide.

On student debt relief:: This question was particularly divisive for the candidates. While Sherill  didn’t agree completely with President Biden’s debt relief plan, she supports renegotiating and providing help to burgeoning student loans. Biasco and DeGroot think that those requesting assistance should take financial responsibility for their personal loans. Biasco blamed the democratic party — the Biden administration specifically — for attempting to use debt relief as an appeal for votes. DeGroot protested that student debt relief will only add to the national debt. 

On federal and state level police reform: Biasco was firm in his position that the federal government should stay out of state-level policing issues, and that police reform, as a whole, is unnecessary. DeGroot made sure to establish that the police are not our enemy and that they generally keep us safe. Sherill focused more on promoting New Jersey Police budget and reform by listing off various recent upgrades given to them during her past term as house representative.

On the growing wealth disparity and the possibility of reparations: DeGroot opened by saying that our country provides “equality, not equity”. He wants to give equal opportunity for jobs and education, no matter economic or social background. Sherill brought up economic terms like “redlining” to affirm her belief in systemic wealth removal. She agreed with DeGroot in his idea to give every person a fair shot at a successful, happy life. Biasco thought the idea of reparations was ludicrous, like student debt relief and a distraction from other problems the democratic administration does not want the public to focus on.

Featured images from @DrewUniversity Twitter

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