Recently I attended a meet and greet for Josh Welle running for congress against 36 year incumbent Chris Smith. This was the third such meeting that day for Mr. Welle. A former Naval Captain, Afghanistan veteran, and US Naval Academy graduate, Welle has been tireless in reaching out to his potential constituents. Contrast Mr. Welle’s accessibility with Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith has not had a town meeting since 1993. He maintains a shadow residence in Hamilton that may as well be only a Post Office Box. We know him by signs and a newsletter sent during election time.
After speaking about policy positions on a variety of topics – quality education, health care as a right, student loan restructuring, infrastructure creation and repair, small business incentives, women’s right to choose, equal rights to serve in the military regardless of sexual or gender identification, Dreamers path to citizenship, and national community service options, Mr. Welle took questions. In conclusion Welle said his job is to represent his constituents’ needs, not special interests.
I respect the strong convictions of those including Mr. Smith who are pro-life. Yet, a personal and religious choice should not become a government intrusion limiting the personal choice and religious convictions of everyone. That is just one of the major contrasts between Mr. Welle and Mr. Smith. This view is made all the more suspect given that Smith and many Republicans are vested in Donald Trump who daily assaults the golden rule. Witness the excessive Trump bullying tweets and pronouncements, the corruption and greed that has characterized his cabinet choices, and policies that enrich corporations and the wealthy while exploding the deficit, a harbinger of diminished social programs and no safety net to those most in need.
You would think that Mr. Smith would be seen and heard given Trump’s assault on personal decency and the common good. In his newsletter, light on the issues, there is no voice on the debacle in Puerto Rico, nor advocacy for fixing the ACA, nor concerns about the exploding deficit. No growth positions articulated nor is a debate with Mr. Welle in the offing, as Smith avoids debate. And worse, Mr. Smith who highlights his efforts to reunite American children abducted overseas is deafeningly silent on the child separation that was the Trump/Sessions policy and practice at the border, still a fiasco.
Mr. Smith’s absence, both physically and morally in these times of crisis and choice, is contrasted to the earnest, well thought out, and articulated positions of Mr. Welle, and his record of service to our country. Regardless of party or special interest, common sense says Mr. Welle should be elected the next representative for NJ CD 4.
Jonathan Shutman, Ed.D.