Jay Webber, Mikie Sherrill

AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File; Justin Zaremba/NJ Advance Media via AP, File

Webber, Sherrill Trade Barbs In Debate For Key New Jersey Congressional Race

October 11, 2018 - 3:14 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- The candidates in a key congressional race in New Jersey sparred in a debate Wednesday.

As WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz reported, the debate on NJTV was for the most part civil between Democrat Mikie Sherrill and Republican Jay Webber.

But the tensions rose a bit when each candidate was given a chance to ask the other a question. Webber went after Sherrill for running on ethics while supporting U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), whom Webber called “corrupt.”

He was referencing the corruption case against Menendez that was dropped after a deadlocked jury.

“Yes or no – will you be voting for Bob Menendez for U.S. senator this year?” Webber asked Sherrill.

Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and prosecutor, stood by Menendez in his Senate race against Republican and former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin, saying it is a choice between “someone who has been a fighter for New Jersey, and somebody who has quite frankly made his millions by raising drug prices on cancer patients.”

Webber responded, “She will associate with anybody to get to the House of Representatives.”

Sherrill then questioned Webber on a vote he took in the State Assembly in 2013, when he voted against a ban on gay conversion therapy.

She asked point blank, “Are you opposed to conversion therapy?”

Webber replied, “I’m opposed to interfering with communication between therapists and their patients.”

Webber said it should be up to families to decide what type of therapy their child receives. Sherrill took that answer as, “I did not hear a ‘no, I don’t support conversion therapy,’ which has been debunked and is dangerous for our kids.”

Sherrill and Webber are running to replace an outgoing Republican congressman. Recent polls show Sherrill with a thin lead over Webber.

President Donald Trump endorsed Webber last month. Trump narrowly won the northern New Jersey's 11th District — situated just north of his golf club in Bedminster — in 2016 and tweeted a glowing endorsement that could fire up Republicans but perhaps alienate independents.

The northern New Jersey district includes parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)