HAMMONTON – The Hammonton Republican candidates for Town Council issued a press release on June 5 challenging Hammonton First and Democratic candidates to an October debate.
Hammonton First sent out its own press release a few days later, proposing a series of debates and forums leading up to Election Day.
Hammonton Town Council candidates held a debate in 2014 for the first time in several years. As of publication, there are no set plans for this year, as the campaigns have yet to negotiate. However, all sides have expressed a need for debate.
In their press release, the Republicans — Joe Giralo, Otto Hernandez and Mickey Pullia — proposed a debate at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18, at Hammonton Town Hall to address, “crushing tax increases and massive water and sewer fees.”
“I have always been an advocate for an active debate process and still am,” Pullia said. “It’s good to get everyone’s opinions out there so the public can make the right decisions. I always was an advocate for debate, so let’s have one, and I understand the other side wants more than one.”
In their press release, Hammonton First candidates touted that they are the only group that has agreed to debate for 10 consecutive years. Hammonton First candidates — Elise Baez, Tom Gribbin and Ed Wuillermin — are asking for multiple debates, including forums where the public has a chance to directly ask questions of the candidates.
“This way, we can give more opportunity for the people of the town,” Hammonton First Campaign Chairperson Ryan Mayer said. “There are more issues. There are more current issues that develop during the course of an election. So, we feel best if we (held multiple debates) it would suit the town and the voters better.”
Democratic candidate Rocky Colasurdo, who has served on council as both a Republican and a Hammonton First representative, is open to multiple debates.
“I’ll have five debates, I don’t care,” Colasurdo said. “I have all the facts and figures. It doesn’t bother me. I’ll be the first one there and I’ll have a lot to say.
“I just want to know who is asking the questions because no one is asking the right questions, they’re asking the wrong questions,” Colasurdo continued.
Mayer said he hoped to get in touch with the other candidates this week to begin negotiating a plan for a debate. All parties have to agree on the number of debates and the structure of the debates, including who is moderating and how much time each candidate has to answer questions.
Although the Republicans proposed one debate, Pullia seems open to having more than one, as long as all parties can agree on structure.
“I don’t like the debates where the questions are out there beforehand,” Pullia said. “I think it should be random questions. I’ve been very fortunate to be on some good committees, and I know the issues. I have no problem with multiple debates.”
“One of the core values of Hammonton First is open, honest government,” Hammonton First Councilman and candidate Ed Wuillermin said in the press release. “Tom, Elsie and I are looking forward to multiple debates and open forums during this year’s election.”
The Hammonton Primary was held on June 2. The Republicans and Colasurdo ran unchallenged. In the unofficial results released, Giralo received 162 votes, while Pullia garnered 160 votes and Hernandez received 151 votes. Colasurdo received 42 votes.