As Congressmen Bill Pascrell (D-NJ8) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ9) continue to issue endorsements and comments leading up to their primary race in the newly configured 9th Congressional District, the two seem to find ways to stoke their sudden rivalry. Rothman, for one, has continued to defend his decision to run in CD-9 as opposed to CD-5 against Republican Scott Garrett (R-NJ5). The biggest reason seems to continue to be his heart belonging to newly drawn CD-9, which features a large chunk of his current district; which he has served for 15 years. He continues to have to answer questions and criticism from many within the Democratic Party for not facing the challenge of Garrett and hopefully take out one of the state’s Republican congressmen.
Quite simply, for Rothman,
“I’m running for re-election in my home district. It’s the district I was born in and have lived in nearly my whole life. The fact that the redistricting commission took the borough of Fair Lawn where I now have my home and cut it off from the 9th and stapled it on to Garrett’s 5th doesn’t change the fact that the 9th District is my home district.”
Furthermore; he twisted the argument made by Pascrell, Pascrell supporters, and many who wish he challenged Garrett towards his point of view on the subject matter. For Rothman,
“Bill had a choice. I’m running in my home district. The fact that Bill was put here in my home district by the redistricting commission is unfortunate but I didn’t cause it and Bill didn’t cause it and that doesn’t mean that I’m going to abandon my friends, neighbors and people I served over the last 15 years in Congress and 24 years of elected office – to run in somebody else’s district. Bill’s decision to run in my home district was Bill’s decision and I’ll leave it at that.”
Rothman was also quick to respond recently to claims he might take at least $2 million from the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) to run in CD-5 instead of CD-9. According to Rothman,
“Even if they had made an unconditional promise and put $5 million or $10 million in an escrow campaign account for me, there is no amount of money that would have had me run in a district other than the 9th which is my home district.”
While DCCC Chairman and Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY2) expressed,
“We told Steve (Rothman), I told Steve personally, that I understood that it would be a tough race and that we, the DCCC, would treat him as a front-liner and help him build the resources he would need to win. He chose to run elsewhere. You can’t do anything about that once that decision is made.”
Conversely, Congressman Rothman continued to build his case for reelection by exclaiming,
“My committee assignment on the House Appropriations Committee and my seniority there enables me and will continue to enable me to bring home more money to my congressional district than any member of Congress who has ever represented my congressional district.”
Not to be outdone, Pascrell was at another public event a couple days after Rothman again stating his main reason why is running in CD-9 and took aim at Rothman and Garrett while highlighting himself. For Pascrell,
“I’m a fighter against the Republican extremists who don’t care about the middle class and the working poor. Mr. Garrett will continue to try to slash and burn budgeting tactics with no thought about the impact on the middle class. We could have been one seat closer to that majority. Instead we are one seat further from a majority because my opponent chose to challenge me. It’s unfortunate my opponent chose to cut and run instead of standing and fighting them, as I will continue to do.”
Pascrell would bluntly add,
“As a proud military veteran, I remember what the acronym AWOL means. You’ve never seen me run away from a fight. I never ran from a fight in Congress. I never ran from a fight in the legislature. I never ran from a fight as mayor. I never ran from a fight on the streets. It doesn’t mean you start fights. It means you finish them. The people who should be fighting for us are fighting us.”
The makeup up the new 9th Congressional District gives Rothman an edge as he works to gather his Bergen County support to combat the Passaic County support that will be at Pascrell’s back. The two have spent the last few weeks looking to impede on the other’s advantages in their home counties. Paterson represents a gold mine for both men and Pascrell’s deep history there will make it hard for Rothman to take much away from the city in terms of supporters. The biggest win he got was getting a group of elected officials in the city to state their intentions to stay neutral during the primary race.
As Pascrell has fought back into the primary battle after Rothman’s fast paced early endorsements and key campaign victories, he continues to show the fight that he has brought and shown in the current CD-8. As Pascrell sees it,
“The 9th District deserves a fighter. Someone who can fight against the extremes of Republican extremism and their continued assaults. I did not discover the Latino community. We played ball together. We cried together. We marched together. We wept together. We fought together. You’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to EARN it. I was the alcalde of this city.”
The race’s competitiveness was even seen this week as President Barack Obama went to Congress to deliver his annual “State of the Union” address. The two looked to embrace the president as he entered and left the House chamber on Tuesday night. Rothman was a strong supporter of Obama’s in 2008 and he has looked to bring up that point when he can. One can imagine that both men would love the endorsement of Obama, but he will likely avoid wading into any Democratic incumbent battles in 2012; which certainly would include this contest.
This contest has not even been a month long and it continues to adds layers to what will be an interesting next four months that the two will leave no stones unturned as they fight for their political careers in Congress.