PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) — A Republican Assembly candidate who dropped out of the race after his book of rants about gays and others surfaced participated in a campaign debate anyway on Wednesday, saying he's not the same person he was when he wrote it.
Anthony Cappola's self-published 2003 book, "Outrageous," targeted gays, Muslims, blacks and seniors.
"I wrote a raunchy, insensitive book," Cappola, a former River Edge councilman, told a crowd of about 50 people at Paramus High School.
Cappola said he dropped out of the race to be a "team player" but wanted people to know he is not a bigot. He described his book as Howard Stern-meets-Rush Limbaugh.
"I don't hate Asians," Cappola said at the League of Women Voters forum. "I don't hate gay people."
Republicans widely denounced Cappola's book. They wanted to replace Cappola on the ballot with Oradell attorney Fernando Alonso but stopped the effort when it became clear the legal cost would top six figures.
Cappola's former Republican running mate in the 38th District, Mark DiPisa, said he didn't want to share a stage with him to validate his candidacy and didn't attend the debate. He issued a statement criticizing the Democratic candidates who did, and it was read by a moderator.
"They chose to validate (Cappola's) candidacy and his views by sharing the stage with him tonight," DiPisa wrote.
The Democrats, incumbent Assemblymen Tim Eustace and Joseph Lagana, said voters were entitled to hear their views. They didn't mention Cappola's book, The Record newspaper reported.
Eustace complained about DiPisa's statement being read, saying it allowed him "to take shots at us from offstage."
Most of the forum focused on significant issues the Legislature faces, with the candidates sparring over school aid, vetoes by Republican Gov. Chris Christie and funding for Planned Parenthood.
The race is among the most closely watched this cycle, with Republicans hoping to defeat the Democratic incumbents. Election Day is Nov. 3.