On Oct 13th, the Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce invited Congressional and county candidates for a forum at the Bayshore Senior Center in Keansburg. The crowd was smaller than you'd expect, but most candidates showed up. It wasn't a debate, and no Q&A. Each candidate received the same series of questions in advance and were invited to respond.

Scott Sipprelle, running for Congress in the 12th district, was first. Probably has the most business credentials from all the candidates present, and he relates to the audience. Scott attacks the healthcare bill for the provision requiring all businesses that receive more than $600 from another business to send a 1099. In his example, if you're a transportation company, and buy gas at dozens of gas stations in the Northeast, identifying all of them and getting their tax ID's (since they're all independently operated) would be a nightmare.

Scott's opponent, Rush Holt, isn't here. But he has an excuse. He doesn't know where Monmouth County is.

6th district candidate Anna Little speaks about her conservative history and attacks the healthcare bill. She makes it clear she'll fight to repeal it. She speaks about her vision of water transportation in the Bayshore, from South Amboy all the way to Red Bank. She advocates the "flat tax" and at the end mentions the Fair Tax.

I can't say I wasn't surprised that Anna's opponent, Frank Pallone showed up. He doesn't like to appear in public recently, and it took guts for him to come face a group of small business owners, considering that everything he does in Congress is against business owners. Even more, he came well prepared and was on point with his answers. I don't agree with them, but he didn't avoid the issues, even if he read most of his speech.

One of the questions all the Congressional candidates were asked was whether they support the healthcare bill. Frank (who repeatedly said it's his bill, that he wrote it himself) spoke for over 10 minutes about it, but didn't say whether he voted for it or not, or whether he supports it or not. I'm yet to find a Democrat incumbent who's boast his vote for the healthcare bill in his/her campaign speeches/ads, except Harry Reid. Pallone said he's actively working to fix the bill. Does this mean he accepts it's broken?

Eventually, a surrogate for Rush Holt found the Chamber of Commerce. She struggled to read his answers, and not even halfway through her plea, people were leaving. I can't say it was more or less exciting than if Holt would've spoken. It was the same boring, meaningless blabber than you'd expect of him.

John D'Amico, Democrat running for Freeholder, was almost as boring as Holt's surrogate (his Dem colleague on the Monmouth Cty Board of Freeholders, Amy Mallet). It felt like half an hour and can't remember one thing he said.

Tom Arnone, mayor of Neptune City and Rep. candidate for freeholder, was probably the most interesting speaker. He didn't have any notes, he spoke completely free about his achievements as Mayor and President of the NJ Conference of Mayors, as well as his plans once he's elected.

Tom was followed by a blonde lady wearing a Halloween pirate costume. Her name is Janice, she's from Spring Lake, and she's running for freeholder as a Dem. She spoke for about 10 minutes about what she's done as a councilwoman to improve the business climate, and she would do to help companies, how the freeholders should get involved in business, and what elected representatives should do to help small businesses. And then all of a sudden, she ends with "... and I think Government should get out of the way of small businesses!". For anybody who listened to her speaking exclusively about how Government should get involved in the business environment, it must've been like a shock.

The Dem candidate for Sheriff, a short lawyer named Brophy, spoke briefly. He focused on spending by the current Sheriff's Department. According to him, the department is "losing about $2,500 per day. Over the year, this adds up to $8-9 million". Hmmmm. Maybe, but he's wrong by a 0 (a factor of 10). Won't blame him personally for this, after all if you're an Obama supporter you start mistaking trillions for billions and billions for millions.

Last candidate to speak was Brophy's opponent, current Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden. He boasted his experience, as undersheriff for many years and acting Sheriff since the beginning of 2010. He challenged Brophy's calculations and said they're not losing money from the federal contracts. And he informed his young opponent that the department's contracts and budget are determined by the freeholders, not the Sheriff.

It was a good, informative forum, but I would've liked more local business owners to show up. Also, the ability to ask direct questions to the candidates would've been nice, but in that case I'd probably still be there at this hour.

Chris Fotache
Middletown, NJ