Neil Carroll III says that while he was on board for a debate for the 1st Ward special council race in Bayonne, he explained why it’s non-essential, drawing a response from challengers Peter Franco and John Cupo.
“Obviously I’d never duck a debate … we’re under about two weeks [before Election Day] – I think it’s a non-issue, to be honest with you. I’m out there every day, I have knocked on every door in the 1st Ward – almost twice,” he said last week.
” … Not once have I heard from a constituent ‘gee, I wish you’d debate.’ And in particular ‘I wish you’d debate these particular individuals.'”
In a story published in The Jersey Journal on October 4th, Carroll, along with challengers Peter Franco, Paul Hagdorn, and John Cupo said they were all on board for a debate.
Since then, HCV had attempted to organize one, but in the end, Carroll’s camp declined and he gave a cryptic answer when asked what had changed since that story had ran.
“I’m not afraid to debate anybody. I think we’d do pretty well in a debate. I’ll say this: I’m a school teacher in this city, I work with children every day of my life – it’s a calling. While I’m not afraid to debate anyone at this moment, I don’t know if it’s an appropriate thing to do.”
It seemed that Carroll was eluding to the fact that one of his challengers, Peter Franco, was convicted of having sex with a minor (which he has said he was wrongfully convicted of), though he did not comment further.
In response, Franco questioned why Carroll was preventing 1st Ward voters from making the most educated decision possible when they head to the polls.
“I think it’s just disappointing: we all work, we all have different schedules and what not, but we’re all running for office, we’re all asking people to trust us, vote for us and I think being out there in the public to answer questions in a debate – where we stand on policies is important,” Franco said.
When told about Carroll’s comment that a debate may not be “appropriate,” Franco continued to ask why he wouldn’t get on stage if he’s confident about the issues?
“I know I’m a regular guy, I don’t have this royal family [where] I feel like it’s anointed to me, the position. If he really knows these issues, if he’s strong about his positions, why not come out on a debate stage and talk about what you plan to do or why you haven’t done the things that you’re planning to do.”
Carroll is the grandson of prolific former freeholder Neil Carroll, Sr., who passed away in December.
When reached over the phone, Cupo said he was looking forward to a debate and that the incumbent’s response show he “has no backbone or any real ideas to face a real candidate.”
Hagdorn, who had also previously agreed to a debate hosted by HCV, was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.