“Eyes Up Here”: Look up north to see if NJ D’s are serious

A lot has been said, both here at Blue Jersey and in the traditional media, about the recent Congressional redistricting – and more specifically with an eye on the new Fifth and Ninth Districts.  Here in the Fifth, where I (still) live, the District is better in terms of the ability to beat radical right winger Scott Garrett, but the District is still a fairly Republican district.  Where things are very interesting in terms of just how serious the New Jersey Democratic Party is, not to mention the national Democratic Party, lies right here in Bergen County.

When Rep. Steve Rothman decided to run against Rep. Bill Pascrell in the Ninth as opposed to running against Garrett, my thought on the bigger picture is that there will be a lot of money spent on a Democratic Primary (assuming there is one) that could have been much better spent knocking down one of the worst Representatives in the truest sense of the word “representative” in that Garrett does not represent the best interest of most of his constituents.

In 2012, Senator Menendez will be up for re-election, as well President Obama.  Bergen County Democrats have just taken back to back huge defeats amid an implosion of the County Party over the past few years.  Steve Rothman is a part of the Bergen County Democratic Organization (or whatever they are calling themselves nowadays), and has to know the importance of good turnout up here in Bergen come November.  As does Senator Menendez (remember that then-US Attorney Christie dropped bogus subpoenas on Menendez on the eve of the 2006 elections, getting himself off the list of to-be-fired US Attorneys as part of the Bush era US Attorney scandal).  As does the Bergen County Democratic Organization.

It came out the other day that the DCCC reportedly offered to pony up between $1 million and $2 million if Rothman would run against Garrett – money that is about what is needed to win the Fifth.  Currently, there is a groundswell of support for Assemblywoman Connie Wagner to take on Garrett – a choice that makes a ton of sense for many reasons (although I’ll hold off on taking sides at this point).  Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy has thrown his hat in the ring, but even though there is a mutually beneficial interest for the Bergen and national Democrats to provide a strong backing for a challenge to Garrett, I wonder if the Bergen Democrats will make the first time they go “all in” on a Congressional Race against Garrett one where the candidate isn’t from Bergen County – regardless of the relative strength of the candidate.

Senator Menendez needs a strong showing in Bergen County.  President Obama needs a strong showing in Bergen County.  Bergen County is, by far, the largest County in the Fifth Congressional District.  The DCCC has already indicated that it would be willing to dump the right amount of cash into this race to oust the truly odious Garrett for Rep. Rothman to run.  The Bergen County Democrats need a strong showing here to regain their relevance.

So where am I going with this?

Well, Al Doblin made an excellent point:

The drama unfolding is completely due to the lack of senior Democratic state leadership. Face it: If the Florsheim were on the other foot and two Republicans were about to spend millions of dollars fighting each other for a safe Republican seat, Governor Christie would “take a bat” to both of them. End of fight. And it would all happen behind closed doors. The public would never know what really transpired. Someone would acquiesce; someone would be victorious.

There is no Democratic equivalent to Christie. For all the power wielded by George Norcross in the south and Steve Adubato Sr. in the north, neither comes close to being the dean of New Jersey Democrats. Former governor and state Sen. Richard Codey isn’t the dean. And neither Sen. Frank Lautenberg nor Sen. Robert Menendez can afford to take sides in the Pascrell-Rothman war.

Will the DCCC step up for Connie Wagner, Terry Duffy, former NY Giant Harry Carson or someone else?  Will the BCDO realize that it needs a strong Congressional candidate to have a shot at winning back some of the races it lost the past few years?  Will anyone on the State level realize the importance of these races and decisions and step up in a leadership role?  

Or will self-interest and lack of leadership lead to another cakewalk for Garrett, no gained ground for Bergen County Democrats, a lackluster County wide effort, wasted money, demotivated activists and voters, and most importantly, a golden opportunity lost to take out one of the worst Congressmen and rebuild a sorely needed tarnished reputation for a Party that is losing its’ way on both a statewide and national level?

Comments (5)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    Do you really believe that the solution to this situation is more powerful bosses?  Do you really want Bossman Joe Ferriero back?  Because if he was back, he probably would have sat John Currie down and told him that he had no choice but to tell Bill Pascrell, Jr. to retire and turn all of his former allies on him or there really will be a Bergen-Passaic civil war and within a very short time, a hand-picked Ferriero ally would be replacing Currie as County Chair and Currie would have folded on Pascrell like a cheap suit.  Is that the kind of small-d democracy that you would like in your large-D Democratic Party?  Because if Adubato and Norcross really cared about the congressional delegation and didn’t cut a deal with Christie to get the legislative map that they wanted in return for the congressional map that he wanted, that is probably what you would have.

    What people need to understand first and foremost is that regardless of how much Pascrell and Steve Rothman raise and spend over the next five months, it will have no bearing on how much is raised and spent in CD5 during the general election.  If Assemblywoman Connie Wagner decides that she wants to run against Garrett and follows the 2006 Linda Stender playbook, she will raise enough money to make herself appear viable to the DCCC, Emily’s List, and every other national entity that has an interest in defeating Garrett in 2009 and they will raise and spend more than enough money to defeat him.  They will also raise and spend more than enough to help Congresswoman Wagner win re-election every two years.

    But even if she doesn’t do this and they don’t do this, Pascrell and Rothman are still going to raise and spend or keep whatever money that they have.  It is not as if Pascrell were to announce his retirement tomorrow, the cash on hand that he and Rothman have would automatically be dumped into CD5.  They are going to do whatever they choose with their campaign cash and very little of it, if any, will find its way into CD5.  That is the way that it has always been and that is the way that it will continue to be whether we like it or not.

    The only thing that a true Democratic leader (like Dick Codey) might be able to do is sit Pascrell down, make it clear to him how futile a primary election campaign against Rothman under the circumstances is going to be and that the odds of him defeating Rodney Frelinghuysen would be no worse and that it would be better for him to possibly go out in a blaze of glory than an act of futility.  He could also promise to help him by campaigning with him in every one of the towns that CD11 and LD27 have in common and others that they don’t, but that’s it and that is all that we should be looking for in a leader.

    The reason that our political system is as screwed up as it is, is because it is driven so much more by political bosses, machines, and other carcinogenic elements of our “democratic” process that the desires, needs, and values of the people that our government is supposed to serve.  President Barack Obama, Senator Bob Menendez, our incumbent Democratic Congressmen, and even challengers like Wagner will be successful in 2012 if their efforts are driven by people who are committed to progressive ideals and values rather than people following the orders of the political bosses and machines.  Or maybe it will be a combination of both as it has been for most of the last decade.

    The only difference might be that for once CD5 might have the demographic makeup for victory to be possible and the candidate who can make it probable.  I don’t necessarily think that Rothman would have been that candidate, but I do think that Wagner can be.  Have faith, Adam.  I believe that our prospects in your district are better than they have ever been or will ever be.  And I believe that if Pascrell and his people take a step back and take a look at the big picture, they will seriously consider backing out of CD9 and running in CD11 instead.  If Ron Paul does what I think that he might do, it could create numerous opportunities for Democratic victories at not only the presidential level, but the congressional and senatorial levels as well that nobody would have imagined so if there is anything that our “leaders” should be doing is taking their cues from Howard Dean and implementing a 50-state/435-seat strategy and putting our best candidates forward wherever they might be.


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