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?
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?