By Jay Cook |
MANALAPAN – He’s no stranger to running for office in New Jersey, but conservative Republican Rich Pezzullo says there’s a difference this time around as he looks to unseat a 30-year incumbent in Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.
“The big question this year isn’t whether people should vote for Rich Pezzullo,” Pezzullo said Tuesday morning. “It’s whether people should vote at all.”
Pezzullo, 60, hails from Freehold Township and is an IT executive with Netcentric Technology Management. A graduate of Cornell University with 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserves under his belt, Pezzullo believes New Jersey voters are “abdicating their right to participate in government” because they’re “disgusted with the information sources available to them on both sides.”
“There’s huge numbers of people that don’t see any sense in voting in New Jersey and we see what happens with that,” he continued. “When 63 percent of the people don’t show up, you get Phil Murphy.”
Pezzullo, who called himself the “Cal Ripken of New Jersey politics,” made a name running as a third party conservative candidate for different state and federal offices from 1995 through 1999. He took on U.S. Sen. Cory Booker back in 2014 and also threw his hat into the ring this year to face off against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez – he dropped out and supported former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin as the Republican candidate.
He’s since received the Republican party line in both Middlesex and Monmouth counties in the 6th Congressional District race and looks to bring a steady, conservative report card with him.
Here are some of Pezzullo’s top issues this election season.
One of the most polarizing topics this election cycle has been the topic of gun control and what extra authority the federal government should have on it.
Pallone has been a supporter of “common sense” gun legislation, calling for universal background checks, closing loopholes for gun shows and internet sales, banning assault weapons and limiting rounds of ammunition.
But Pezzullo, who strictly interprets the Constitution, said the Second Amendment was put in place for a reason by the American founding fathers.
“You have the right to protect yourself and everything they try to do under gun control effects people’s ability to defend themselves in their home,” he said.
He also disagrees with calls for repealing the Second Amendment, similar to the Prohibition amendments.
“If there’s a need to repeal the Second Amendment, send it out to the states and find out,” Pezzullo said. “I’m confident the will of the people will speak. I would never vote to repeal it.”
Supporting President Donald Trump’s immigration policy would be another of Pezzullo’s ideals if elected to replace Pallone. He said he would address the approximately 11 million people nationally who entered the country without documentation or have overstayed their visas.
Pushing Trump’s agenda to go forward with a wall project along the U.S./Mexico border would also be an important piece of that, Pezzullo continued.
“What the wall will do is send a clear message to all of those people that we intend on enforcing our immigration laws and if you want to know what they are, come in and comply with them.”
He also said it was “shameful” for Democrats to suggest the United States readily open to people from Central and Southern American countries, only to reach the border and find the opposite.
While his Democratic counterparts are pushing for more affordable and even free college education in New Jersey, Pezzullo said he wants to tackle student debt from another angle – whether or not college degrees are even necessary in some industries.
“We need to reorient the methodology of delivering education,” he said. “Right now what we do in the public schools is point people in a straight-chute towards college and if you don’t fit there you’re stressed all through high school and when you’re in college.”
Trade schools and industry-specific accreditations should be touted more as college costs are rising across the board.
And for graduates who left college with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, he proposes allowing college loan payments to be tax deductible under the tax code. Pezzullo argued it would make it easier for family members to help relieve debts and also give employers another bargaining chip when attracting new prospective employees.
“That’s something we can do immediately to get kids and young people out from under the gun,” he said. “It’s demoralizing.”
Pezzullo said one of his top priorities if elected would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare. He said the program’s structure “makes it very hard for doctors to stay in their offices with the structure of government control at the federal level.”
He argued American policy should stay away from getting into a corporate health care environment because good doctors are best found when health care acts like it’s natural state as a small business.
Having states regulate their own health care options would be best because “having an overarching federal mechanism is bad for the states and bad for the people.”
This article was first published in the August 9-16, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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