Why I’m with Bill Pascrell

promoted by Rosi

Voters in the 9th Congressional District are posed with a tough choice.  Two capable, progressive members of Congress are facing off in a primary.  Only one can stay in Congress.  Sometimes in life we face these types of tough dilemmas. But the stakes are too high to make the wrong choice.  President Obama needs fighters in Congress to reform our campaign finance laws, pass comprehensive climate change legislation, and protect middle class families.  

Bill Pascrell is one of those fighters the President needs back in Congress come 2013.

My friendship with President Obama goes back fifteen years.  As a Senior Advisor, State Director here in New Jersey, and member of the transition team I know his values are one in the same with Congressman Pascrell.  I know that if Bill were drawn into a congressional district with Scott Garrett – the darling of the Tea Party – he would not back down.  He would have brought that fight right to Garrett’s doorstep and put another seat in play to regain the majority for the Democrats, just like he did in 1996.  

Steve Rothman had that chance, but instead chose to move into Bill’s district and waste resources that should go towards defeating Republicans.  

I don’t take this endorsement lightly.  As the campaign unfolded over the last few months, my initial instinct was to stay out of this race.  But I couldn’t stand idly by any longer.  Specifically, I was disappointed by the tenor of Rothman’s campaign. Attack ads the Star Ledger called “dishonest, ludicrous, wrong and ridiculous” motivated me to speak up.  I applaud Bill Pascrell for running a campaign appealing to the best in people, not the worst. Our focus must remain on the key issues of the day: creating jobs, affordable healthcare, and educational opportunities for our children.

As Democrats, we shouldn’t need to worry about dishonest attacks from within the party.  

Bill doesn’t sit on the sidelines during important political and legislative fights. When President Obama needed help passing healthcare legislation, Congressman Pascrell was there to forge consensus and get the bill passed.  As a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, he delivered important funding that improved our infrastructure, created jobs, and protected our environment.  Bill is the fighter we need standing arm-in-arm with President Obama.  

On June 5th vote Bill Pascrell for Congress.    

Comments (5)

  1. Babs NJSD

    But for me as an LGBT activist on a state wide and national scale … Pascrell’s support usually seemed to come only after kicking and fighting. We had to do the fighting to bring him over.

    I’ll never forget that wide-eyed look of his as he stared and rushed past a group of transpeople and a DNC member meeting with his staff in DC.

    Rothman never expressed any fear and consistently gave respect.

  2. Bertin Lefkovic

    …for discussing the 2012 Democratic primary election in CD9, disqualifying any argument involving which candidate should run in which district, because while it is all well and good to repeat a desperate campaign’s only talking point ad nauseum, doing so only lowers the level of discourse and does not reflect well on the person making the argument.

    There are a lot of arguments that Mark Alexander could have made to justify his endorsement of Bill Pascrell, Jr..  As 12M has cited on so many occasions, his voting record on trade issues is better than Rothman’s.  He has also been a leader on issues concerning first responders and homeland security.  Yet with this and other issues that he could have discussed at his disposal, he chose to lead with the following canard:

    I know that if Bill were drawn into a congressional district with Scott Garrett – the darling of the Tea Party – he would not back down.  He would have brought that fight right to Garrett’s doorstep and put another seat in play to regain the majority for the Democrats, just like he did in 1996.

    For a Seton Hall professor, Mark displays a broad and deep ignorance of NJ politics and exhibits a pathetic willingness to allow the Pascrell campaign to write his endorsement for him.  If he had even a narrow and shallow understanding of NJ politics and even the bare minimum of self-respect required to thoughtfully consider the arguments that he is making when crafting an endorsement, he would have recognized the following:

    1) Bill Pascrell, Jr. had a representative on the congressional redistricting commission, so if he was the fighter that he and others claim that he is, he had every opportunity to demand the head-to-head matchup in a competitive district that they claim Rothman ran away from.  A district, consisting of all of Passaic and Sussex Counties and SW Bergen, could have easily been constructed, resulting in a competitive district of his own in the remainder of Bergen County for Rothman.  However, Pascrell’s representative negotiated a safe district for Pascrell on both the Democratic and Republican maps.  The only differences between the two maps were the degrees of competitiveness of the new CD5.

    2.  When Bill Pascrell defeated Bill Martini in 1996, he was not facing a tough Republican opponent in a tough Republican district like Rush Holt did when he lost to Mike Pappas that same year two years before defeating him in their post-“Twinkle Twinkle Kenneth Starr” rematch.  He was running against a freshman Republican two years after he had defeated a freshman Democrat in the 1994 “angry white male” (I guess being Jewish prevented Herb Klein from appearing white enough for the “angry white male” CD8 voters that threw him out of office) Gingrich Revolution two years after he had replaced a Democrat who had held the seat for over twenty years.

    Thus, when Pascrell and his endorsers/surrogates repeat the talking point that he somehow answered the call in 1996 to run unopposed in the Democratic primary election for Congress in a Democratic district in a Presidential election year, where his election (as well as his re-election in 1998, 2000, and beyond until this year) was all but guaranteed, what they should really be saying is that he made the most of his opportunity to ascend from his positions of Assemblyman and Mayor to the Congress, because that is all that he did.

    There was nothing magnanimous or self-sacrificial about anything that Pascrell did or has done since.  He risked nothing by running and gained everything, becoming the de facto boss of Passaic County (if he wasn’t already, which could also explain Klein’s 1994 loss) in the process.

    This primary election could have produced a great debate about the values of the constituents in the new CD9, comparing Pascrell’s strong positions on important economic issues with Rothman’s strong positions on important social issues as well as Pascrell’s mixed record on social issues and Rothman’s mixed record on economic issues.

    Instead, otherwise intelligent people, who are so consumed with defeating Scott Garrett, chose to make a single decision, which many other elected officials have made before without being subjected to the same degree of cruxifixion, the be all and end of this race.  When you consider how rare contested primary elections are in this state, I think that it is safe to argue that we all, opponents and supporters of Rothman, have failed miserably in elevating the level of discourse in this race.

    Mark Alexander’s endorsement is not the only example of this failure.  It is just the most recent one.

  3. Matthew Jordan

    From the White House Office of the Press Secretary:

    Mark C. Alexander is a Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he specializes in Constitutional Law and also teaches Criminal Procedure.  His scholarship focuses on the intersection of law, politics and government and on free speech issues. During the 2003-2004 Academic Year, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach a course in American Law & Politics at Universidad Carlos III. Mr. Alexander was a Senior Advisor to the Obama Presidential Campaign, serving as National Policy Director, New Jersey State Director and on the Presidential Transition Team.  Mr. Alexander received his J.D. from Yale University Law School and a B.A., in Architecture from Yale University.

  4. mf2012

    I live in Bergen in the new CD9, and I even interned for Rothman’s office (in Hackensack, in the new CD5) many years ago. I don’t work for anyone in Congress and have nothing personally to gain from anyone’s victory.

    I can see why the Rothman campaign would like a Godwin’s law about Rothman’s decision to run against Pascrell rather than Garrett. It’s the single thing that hurts him the most. But sometimes you don’t always get what you like, and sometimes you shouldn’t.

    For me, Rothman’s decision is the single most important consideration in this race. It’s more important than everything else I’ve heard anyone talk about, combined.

    Rothman had a real, plausible opportunity to take one R seat and turn it D, if only for one term. New CD5 was not hopeless, and Rothman could have won it. (Actually, I think he would have. And then he’d probably have lost in 2014.) If he had, we’d be one seat closer to the majority. And Garrett, a Republican so extreme he seems like he should represent the Texas panhandle rather than places like Teaneck and Hackensack, would be gone. Even if Rothman lost for re-election in 2014, by serving that one term in Congress as a Democrat, and knocking Garrett out, he’d have done more good for the progressive cause than both he and Pascrell have done in their entire pre-2012 careers combined. Because let’s be honest. If either of them hadn’t been in Congress, some other generic Dem who would have voted essentially the same way would have represented their district.

    Plus, odds are that the new, post-2014 CD5 Republican would be less crazy than Garrett, so at least he wouldn’t be pushing the House Republican leadership to move further to the right, causing disasters like the debt ceiling meltdown last summer.

    The fact is that CD9 is a Democratic district. It doesn’t matter who its House rep is, so long as he or she is a Democrat. Neither Rothman nor Pascrell are Blue Dogs or DINOs. And the House is a majoritarian institution anyway, so even the worst DINO is better than the best Republican, because even that Blue Dog will give us control over the Rules Committee and every other House Committee. The only effect of this election will be the message it sends to other members of Congress. I want to send the right message.

    Rothman could have spent his reputation, $1.7+ million, and sweat to take out Garrett. He didn’t. That one decision matters more than every other vote he’s taken in the past.

    The funny thing is, I disagree with Pascrell about trade, among some other issues. I don’t care. He’s not a Blue Dog, but a mainstream moderately liberal Democrat, and that’s enough for me. Pascrell will never be the pivotal vote blocking liberal legislation, a la Ben Nelson. If we need Pascrell’s vote, he’ll either be there or we weren’t close to winning anyway.

    I also don’t care about what Pascrell would have done if he were in Rothman’s shoes, or that Pascrell had an unfair advantage on the redistricting committee. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want in life. If Rothman had done what was best for the country, he would have moved on and accepted that he was outmaneuvered by Pascrell, and then decided to do what was best for the country. That would have been to challenge Garrett. Instead he decided to do what was best for himself- that is, get a safe seat for the next ten years, rather than continually being in danger of defeat.

    When the next redistricting happens in 2021-2022, I want every Democrat in Congress to remember this race. And they do have long memories, because so many serve so long. If Pascrell’s victory (I hope) convinces one Democrat in any state to run a winnable race against a Republican rather than fighting another Democrat, then voting for Pascrell was worth it, and his victory was worth more than every single legislative vote put together by Pascrell, Rothman, or whichever generic Democrat who represents CD9 takes for the next ten years. Because the most important vote is the first one, for Speaker.

  5. Bill W

    The fact is that CD9 is a Democratic district. It doesn’t matter who its House rep is, so long as he or she is a Democrat.

    I can’t disagree strongly enough with that statement. Those “safe D” districts are exactly where we should be making every effort to elect the most progressive candidates possible.

    Look at what the Club For Growth does on the other side. Realizing that there is a practical limit to how many seats the Republicans can hold, the CFG has backed primary challengers to moderate GOP office holders in safe districts. That’s part of how Garrett got in.  


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