Moderated by Earl Morgan, the Black Interest Team Enterprise (B.I.T.E.) and Lincoln High School, the District 31 Assembly Candidate Forum saw Nick Chiaravalloti and Bruce Alston get into a shouting match over a question regarding charter schools.
Angela McKnight, Washington Flores, Ray Regalado, Joe Conte, and Matthew Kopko also participated in the event. Kopko’s running mate, Herminio Mendoza was not in attendance.
Each candidate was given a one-minute time limit per answer, beginning with an introduction of themselves, their platform and intentions as Assembly representative of the 31st District.
Alston, the only candidate to stand during the introductions, said “I don’t have to introduce myself because I am you and you am I, that is the difference between me and any other candidates up here.”
First of the hot topics was education and what they would do to improve the district’s school system.
Conte, the first to speak, stated “I am here to fight for more public school funding.”
Matthew Kopko argued that taking money from other children from the state and moving it to this district was not the solution.
“There is not enough money to go around and to resolve our education problem we need to invest in our curriculum and invest in our technology.”
Morgan then asked the candidates of their position on the recent resolution passed by Jersey City Council for Gov. Chris Christie (R) and the state Legislature to approve an equitable funding formula for charter schools.
Chiaravalloti claimed charter schools have become commercialized. This led Morgan to ask McKnight about her running mate’s difference in opinion.
Chiaravalloti tried to clear the air by explaining that he was not sharing his disdain for charter schools, but rather disapproving of its commercialization.
McKnight responded that she cannot give an answer because she was not familiar with the resolution.
Alston commented that she cannot run for state assembly if she does not know anything that happens in her own city government. “Try going to one of the council meetings,” he told McKnight.
Morgan then asked Alston what he would say to parents who consider charter schools a choice when the public or private curriculum is ineffective for their children.
Alston’s reply included highlighting Chiaravalloti’s choice to send his sons to schools in Staten Island.
Chiaravalloti responded to Alston, “I know we’re at the desperate last stages of the campaign, but do me a favor and leave my kids out of this campaign.”
“No you leave my kids out of it,” responded Alston, “because my kids are the ones from this community.”
After Morgan calmed the two candidates, McKnight asked, “Can we move on? There are many other issues that our community needs.”
Regalado also commented: “You vote for these guys, this is what you will get in Trenton.”
Following the candidate outburst, Morgan asked about their thoughts on Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver’s D-34 bill that would require the state Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to cases against police.
“Until we have a police department that represents the community that it’s serving, can we really get passed all the issues,” Flores exclaimed.
One of the last of the topics was on tax abatements and property taxes.
“You ask Governor Christie to tax the rich and not the poor,” said Regalado, who received a loud applause for his response.
Editor’s Note: Shortly after this story was published, Jeff Meyer, Nick Chiaravalloti’s campaign manager, told Hudson County View that Bruce Alston was spreading misinformation about where Chiaravalloti’s children go to school. He said they attend Lacordaire Academy in Montclair, as opposed to being schooled in Staten Island.