BRANCHBURG -- Even a hostile crowd that booed and heckled U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance found things to like when the Republican lawmaker made sure the audience at Raritan Valley Community College knew where he differed from President Donald Trump.
Perhaps he was looking ahead to 2018. Lance (R-7th Dist.) represents one of only 23 congressional districts that supported Democrat Hillary Clinton while electing a Republican member of the U.S. House.
He was one of four New Jersey GOP lawmakers placed on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's first target list for the midterm elections.
"I think they put everybody on that list where Hillary Clinton carried the district," he said afterwards.
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Still, Lance made sure at his 41st town hall meeting to separate himself from Trump on a number of issues. His district covers northwest and north-central New Jersey. That includes all of Hunterdon County and parts of Warren County, including the Phillipsburg area and surrounding communities.
Lance reminded the audience that he was the first New Jersey House Republican to criticize Trump's immigration executive order, calling it "rushed and poorly implemented."
Here are the seven times he differed with the president Wednesday night.
1. "I do not believe there's a moral equivalency between the government of the United States and the government of Russia."
In an interview with Fox News before the Super Bowl, Trump was asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I do respect him," Trump said.
"He's a killer," questioner Bill O'Reilly said.
"There are a lot of killers," Trump said. "You think our country's so innocent?"
President Reagan certainly would agree: There is no moral equivalency between the United States and Russia. https://t.co/0LjL9WT4Yg-- Rep. Leonard Lance (@RepLanceNJ7) February 6, 2017
2. "I try to be factually accurate."
For example, Lance said Trump was wrong when the president said he received more electoral votes than any president since Ronald Reagan. Actually, he received fewer than every president since Reagan except for George W. Bush.
3. "It is important we maintain a strong relationship with NATO."
Trump has called on European allies to increase their funding for NATO lest the U.S. shrink its commitment. At one point during the campaign, he said he would tell them, "You will be defending yourself" if they don't pony up."
4. "I do not believe it is necessary to have a wall in all places."
Lance said he wanted to see the proposal, but that Congress will not spend $20 billion to build a barrier along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Trump made such a wall the centerpiece of his immigration plan.
5. "I hope we continue to have strong public schools."
Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a strong advocate of shifting taxpayer dollars away from public education into religious and other private schools.
Lance, on the other hand, was endorsed by the state's largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, in last year's election. The NJEA called DeVos "a disaster for public education."
6. "I hope the Russian regime will understand that the tradition of this country is trust but verify."
Trump for weeks resisted the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies who said the Russian president directed efforts to intervene in the presidential election to help elect him. He has insisted he has no ties to Russia even as he refused to disclose his income tax returns that would show any financial dealings with Moscow.
The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story - RUSSIA. Fake news!-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017
Lance said he supported an investigation into possible connections between Trump and Russia, though said it should be done through the current congressional committees rather than setting up a special bipartisan panel.
7. "I favor a free and unfettered press."
Lance disagreed with Trump, who called the independent U.S. news media "enemies of the American people."At start of GOP Leonard Lance town hall, emotions are high
Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.
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