Parental rights dominating 4th district campaign

August 11, 2023

New Jersey Globe

By Ricky Suta

Republicans launch Five-Point Contract with South Jersey Parents; Moriarty calls it ‘fanning the flames of extremist culture wars’

Seeking to flip South Jersey seats Democrats have held for the last twenty years, Republican legislative candidates in the 4th district are doubling down on support for parental rights issues, unveiling their “Five-Point Contract with South Jersey Parents.”

Senate candidate Chris Del Borrello and Assembly nominees Matt Walker and Amanda Esposito have made the empowerment of parents on sex education issues and support for law enforcement cornerstones in their campaign.

But the Democratic Senate candidate, nine-term Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Washington), sharply rebuked the plan as a MAGA Manifesto, saying Del Borrello and his team should instead call their proposal “Radicals Oath to Bring Southern MAGA Republican Politics to New Jersey.”

“Clueless Chris Del Borrello doesn’t have an original thought in his brain.  Division, fear, and fanning the flames of extremist culture wars are all he’s got,” said Moriarty.  “Someone must ask Chris if the Fourth District Republicans borrowed their playbook from the Mississippi Republican gubernatorial campaign.”

The Republican plan unveiled today includes:

  • Support legislation that would require curricula to be given to parents or guardians in advance for review and allow them to opt their children out of any curriculum that conflicts with their conscience or highly held moral or religious beliefs;   
  • Block Attorney General Matt Platkin’s directive to prohibit teachers and school staff from disclosing a student’s change in their gender identity;   
  • Support legislation that segregates school sports based on biological sex;   
  • Repeal legislation that allows individuals under 21 to walk away from a police officer who is questioning them about marijuana or alcohol use; and   
  • Allow parents to claim a religious exemption from childhood vaccinations and oppose any effort to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for New Jersey public school children.

Some proposals come from support of legislation already introduced in Trenton by Republican lawmakers.

These issues have received increasing attention following the controversial State Board of Education vote that approved the equity code, eliminating many instances of gendered language in the State code. That vote has injected fresh debate over education policy and who determines what is best for students, parents, and educators.

“Parents should always be at the center of their child’s education, and that requires a high level of transparency between school districts and parents when it comes to curriculum being taught in the classroom,” said Del Borrello.  “Even better, by electing a career educator like Amanda Esposito to the Assembly, we can take legislation like this and make sure the final version of it works for parents and teachers, who need to have a cooperative, open relationship.”

Moriarty disagrees with the premise of Del Borrello’s complaints.

“New Jersey has the best schools in the nation because parents have always had a strong voice in education matters,” he said. “We’ve empowered parents and local districts with sound policies and well-established processes to ensure they can decide what is best for their students.”

And Moriarty refuses to allow Del Borrello, a former Washington Township councilman, to label him anti-parental rights.

“I’ve always stood on the side of parental rights,” Moriarty said. “I spoke out against the State Board of Education’s Equity Code Vote. I demanded their membership return to the drawing board and find a reasonable consensus after deep, thoughtful partnership between educators, parents, and students that will be impacted.”

Del Borrello, Walker, and Esposito are betting that social issues will resonate with swing voters in a district that Gov. Phil Murphy lost by five percentage points in 2021—and perhaps motivate their Republican base to participate in the fall midterm elections, where voter turnout is traditionally light.

Esposito, who will begin teaching at Pitman High School in the fall – the New Jersey Education Association is backing her Democratic opponents – called Platkin’s position “extremely troubling.”

“Forcing teacher’s keep secrets from parents about their own children flies in the face of common sense and certainly is not something the vast majority of teachers I know would be comfortable doing.

Using biological gender to determine eligibility for school sports is one of “competitive fairness and safety,” said Walker, a union leader and former Buena council president.

“This is an issue of competitive fairness and safety,” Walker said.   “As children mature, and certainly by the time they are in middle school and high school, allowing boys, who are bigger, faster, and stronger than girls, to compete against each other should not be allowed.”

Moriarty calls Del Borrello a “rubber stamp for radical extremist policies.”

“He is out of touch with the needs of South Jersey residents, is in over his head on economic issues impacting our region, and does not have a plan to tackle real problems facing our state,” he said.  “This contract is a preview of the Mississippi and Kentucky-style MAGA Republican politics they’ll bring to New Jersey if elected.