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Washington Township Mayor Hopefuls Get Personal

The Gloucester County Times

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

By Shawn G. Menzies smenzies@sjnewsco.com

For the second time in as many weeks four candidates vying for the mayor's seat in Washington Township debated on issues ranging from taxes, municipal services and how they would lead the most populous municipality in the county. Candidates for mayor Theresa Lappe (I), Paul Moriarty (D), Jeff Morris (R), and Mary Virginia "Ginny" Weber (I) squared off in their final meeting before next week's election as they participated in a debate live on Rowan University's radio station. While the first format of the debate was similar to last week's, the second portion had candidates asking each other questions. Moriarty's proposal to raise $400,000 a year revenue via advertisements on the town's cable access channel was called "not workable" by Morris. "I read the contract with Comcast and I am not making the proposal out of thin air," Moriarty said. "I am right and you are not. I am reading in the contract ... As far as I am concerned I am correct and I stand by it." Morris attacked Moriarty's voting record, as did Lappe. He addressed Moriarty's record of only voting in seven of the last nine elections. Moriarty did not deny his voting record, rather he defended it as his right to vote and to not vote. "If my opponent is saying any Washington Township resident failed to vote in every election is somehow a second class citizen who does not care about the community, I think you are sadly mistaken," Moriarty responded to Morris' accusation. "The fact is the overwhelming majority of people in town do not vote in every election and that is their option." Adding to the defense of his voting record, Moriarty also brought up Morris' tax problems with the business, Morris Graphics, located in Woodbury. "I have run a business for 23 years and during the economic downturn of the 1990s my business like many other businesses did get a little behind on my taxes and I didn't take the easy way out," Morris said. "I didn't declare bankruptcy. I didn't give up. I worked harder, I worked smarter and paid every single penny of my taxes off. I admit it. There are some times when the township budget gets in trouble and you need someone who has that experience and is able to work through it and not raise taxes. My experience will be helpful in the mayor's office." While candidates attacked each other on both personal and non-personal levels, Lappe said she wants to bring residents better services via a new municipal services complex. Challenged by Moriarty on how she would pay for one without raising taxes, Lappe said she would work with the private sector via leasing township-owned land in town and use the revenue for the building of the complex. Weber forfeited her questions and refused to take part in the second portion, adding: "I thought the debate last week was fabulous because I never say that many people in (town) come out to a debate and I was inspired."