Republican challenger takes on Democratic incumbent in New Jersey’s 5th District

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The congressional seat in New Jersey’s 5th District is up for grabs this election and Republican John McCann is taking on incumbent Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

Rep. Gottheimer has been a congressman for the last two years after he defeated longtime Republican Rep. Scott Garrett in 2016.

The Democrat says that the top issues he hears from voters are concerns about health care costs, clean drinking water and taxes.

“How do we make sure we cut taxes and make things more affordable here? It’s expensive here and what I’ve been focused on is how we actually get costs down and cut the bureaucratic red tape,” Gottheimer says.

RELATED: Campaign signs for Rep. Gottheimer vandalized with anti-Semitic images

McCann is a former Cresskill councilman. He says voters’ top issues are border security and health care. He says that he favors abolishing the Affordable Care Act in favor of a privatized, doctor-based system, including for elderly patients on Medicare.

“[The elderly are] benefiting from government health care but if we had a private system, even for someone at that age, we could certainly cover pre-existing conditions better and cheaper,” McCann says.

The campaign in the district has gotten contentious. Gottheimer’s campaign signs were defaced with swastikas and the phrase “MAGA,” referring to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

McCann says that Democrats are to blame for the increase in hate speech around the country.

“Particularly in the last year. It’s coming from the left, and I don’t think that’s undeniable,” he says. “We can’t have people going out to play baseball and because they’re associated with a political party, the Republican Party, have someone shoot at them.”

McCann is referring to the 2017 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot while practicing for the annual congressional baseball game. Authorities identified the alleged shooter as James Thomas Hodgkinson, a left-wing activist.

Gottheimer responded to the vandalism with an anti-hate rally.

“Coming together and saying this does not reflect our values. I think that’s how you should respond to it,” Gottheimer says. “If [McCann] wants to play politics with it, that’s really pathetic actually and not…a place for it in our state. It’s not who we are.”

Tuesday, Oct. 16 is the last day to register to vote in New Jersey. Election Day is Nov. 6.

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