Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) is reportedly taking a week to mull a run at Representative Scott Garrett (R) in Congressional District 5. She has said it was important that NJ have a congresswoman and that “people deserve the opportunity to have someone not driven by ideology.” She further states, “I do feel that it is winnable. I think that Scott Garrett has never had true stiff opposition. I think that people deserve a choice between a moderate and an obstructionist.” Lets now take a closer look at this reconfigured 5th CD. Although geographically challenged, CD5 is now more difficult for Garrett and represents a rare opportunity for a Democrat from Bergen County. At least two other known potential candidates are also exploring a run.
Think of NJ like a snowman (or woman). CD5 is shaped like a cap with earmuffs that rests atop the face and body of NJ. On the western edge the earmuffs reach deep down through Sussex and Warren’s rural, mountainous areas to CD 7. It’s cap top includes Sussex, two Passaic towns and Bergen. Its smaller less deep eastern earmuff is also Bergen. The face under the cap and earmuffs includes districts 7,9 and 11. To drive through the CD5 you could start at Washington Borough in the south/western section, drive north to Montague (53 miles), then east to Alpine (76 miles) and south to Teaneck (12 miles) – a very long 141 mile trip which would be multiple miles longer if you crisscrossed the area to encompass more or all of the towns in the district. The roads in Sussex and Warren are country roads, and in fact the quickest way to travel the first two legs is using out-of-state nearby highways (in PA and NY respectively).
Not a geographically friendly area for a congressperson, but such probably has not bothered Rep. Garrett as he spends little time doing retail politics. Following redistricting, however, he now has about 161,000 new constituents from Bergen County, including from Hackensack, Fair Lawn, Lodi, River Edge, Maywood, Bogota, and part of Teaneck. Now pesky Bergen County provides 72% of his constituents, and most of its towns are an hour or more drive from his home in Wantage. He will by force have to spend time particularly in the southern area of Bergen with new voters who are unhappy Democrats and with Republicans who don’t know him and may not like what they see.
Assemblywoman and Deputy Speaker Connie Wagner from Paramus, should she decide to run in the 5th, is conveniently located near the center of Bergen County where 72% of the CD5 voters live. She already represents 82,935 CD5 residents in Paramus, Lodi, and Fair Lawn. She has served on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders and the Paramus Council. She will have to spend some time in the more distant conservative Sussex and Warren counties making the point that she can better represent their interests, and she will have to reach out to the more Republican towns in Bergen CD5. (See my recent diary detailing Garrett’s extreme positions and why a more moderate approach can gain traction in CD5.) She will need to amass over $1million in campaign donations as Garrett, according to the Federal Election Commission, as of 9/30/11 reported he held $1,564,354 in cash.
For further information on Assw. Wagner and two other potential candidates, Duffy and Carson, see below the fold.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) has been an early champion for Wagner. The Draft Connie Wagner for Congress facebook page currently has 426 members including Sen. Bob Gordon and former B. C. County Executive Dennis McNerney, both of whom have been earlier mentioned as possible CD5 candidates. Also included in the facebook list are Asw. Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Asw. Nellie Pou, Asw. Joan Quigley, incoming Asm. Tim Eustace, B.C. Freeholder David Ganz, Hawthorne Democratic Party Chair Jeff Gardner, and B.C. Surrogate Michael Dressler.
Not included in the facebook list is Terry Duffy, a Passaic County Freeholder since 2005. Duffy has said that he’ll spend the next month testing the waters. He explains, “My priority has always been to fight for the issues affecting middle class families. As a small business owner, I know how hard things are right now. I know I can bring sorely needed working class values and a new perspective to Washington D.C.” Although he resides in CD5’s Passaic West Milford there are only two Passaic towns (total population 38,078) in the CD. He owns and operates Duffy’s Tavern and Duffy’s Riverside Grill in Paterson.
Harry Carson, legendary NFL’s New York Giants linebacker (1976-1988) has said he is considering a run and has been in talks with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. After his football career he became a sports broadcaster, businessman/consultant/spokesperson and active in charities. On his website he provides a Fortune 500 list of clients, and his community charitable involvement. He has just published a book Captain for Life which he describes as “My own first person narrative through my early years, my 21 year football career and life after football. It is my personal account of injuries sustained playing the game and specifically concussions I gave and received as a football player and my experiences living with the lingering after effects.” He is a resident of Bergen County’s Franklin Lakes within CD5, who is wealthy and famous, but without experience in NJ politics.
Disclosure: I am a Bergen County resident unhappily redistricted into the 5th CD and a supporter of Assemblywoman Connie Wagner.