Bill Pascrell in NJ-9

In exactly 24 hours, the polls will close for this year’s Primary Election, and those of us who actually live in NJ-9 will be glad it’s over. By most accounts, this race looks to be very close, and will turn on which candidate gets his supporters to the polls. As a 9th District voter, I endorsed Bill Pascrell early on. And, having been bombarded by Steve Rothman’s increasingly dishonest and negative campaign, I’m proud that I did, and proud to be joined in that endorsement by much of organized labor, The Star Ledger and most recently, The Record.

Yet, to listen to the Rothman campaign (and no, I don’t mean its over-eager surrogates), one would conclude that Pascrell is anti-choice, anti-environment, anti-gay, and essentially unworthy of the office. The Rothman mailers keep arriving each day, and each with a new outrageous claim. But, when you look at the facts, Bill Pascrell has a long record of being pro-choice, a stellar environmental record, and has been fighting for equality for gay families since long before the marriage equality debate even made it to the mainstream.

The fact is both candidates have similar voting records in Congress, as loyal democrats on issues ranging from choice, civil rights, taxes, the environment, etc. Pascrell has gotten higher marks from labor groups, including police, firemen and teachers, because he has more consistently supported worker’s rights, and more strongly opposed outsourcing jobs to other countries. (I guess Pascrell should be sending out mail calling Rothman a job-killer who hates America, but he has stuck to a more positive campaign about his own service and abilities rather than going negative by twisting the truth.) Any honest assessment of their voting records would reveal them to be similarly progressive.

So, without substantial differences on the progressive-o-meter, yes I do think we’re free to look at other factors beyond “issues” – much as progressive voters will be doing in NJ-10 and LD-16. Members of Congress do a lot more than just cast votes – from constituent services, to accessibility, to supporting local parties and candidates, to advocating/supporting cleaner more open government, or people-power, to other intangibles that should matter to all progressives.

A big issue early on – whether Rothman should have even engaged this race, rather than running in the District where he lived – remains an issue today. Putting aside the gratuitous name-calling that prevailed at the start of the campaign, Rothman’s decision not to run in a 70% Bergen County District, with only a slight (51-49%) Republican lean, against far and away the worst Congressman for progressives in New Jersey, Scott Garrett, matters.

So, when Pascrell says he is “a fighter who will stand toe-to-toe with the tea party,” I get why the Rothman partisans might be upset by the contrast. But it’s there, and it’s obvious, and it matters. We went from the real possibility of a 7-5 delegation, with a well-funded, well-known, Bergen County incumbent challenging Garrett, to a guaranteed 6-6 delegation that still includes Garrett. That doesn’t make Rothman a coward or a wimp or a schmuck – it just makes him the guy who declined to take on Garrett, and chose instead to run against a fellow democratic incumbent in a primary.

Add it all up, and for me, the choice is clear: I hope my fellow 9th District voters join me in supporting Bill Pascrell in NJ-9.


I’ve spoken often about the value primaries can offer to the Democratic party, and to our state, particularly in races where the primary winner will likely cruise to victory in November. I stand by that. But, it works best when candidates highlight their own strengths and honestly address their opponent’s flaws – not when one Democrat makes pants-on-fire claims against another Democrat in a scorched-earth campaign. When that happens, no one wins.

Comments (10)

  1. FogerRox

    You offer a multi faceted look at the Rothman Pascrell contest that shows off your valued insight.

  2. carolh

    Rothman’s campaign is trying to get absentee ballots from Paterson impounded. This protest is a clear message to Rothman to quit acting like a GOP thug.  This is a clear GOP style voter suppression tactic in Pascrell’s territory.  Very Very disappointed in Rothman for trying this.  It is so Ferriero.

    I used to live in Paterson and I take this as a terrible affront.  Many of these folks vote absentee because they work and take the buses and might not get home in time.  I am infuriated at this ham handed attempt to win at all costs.  Disgraceful.

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    Being the schoolyard bully that Pascrell has been his entire life, he clearly knows how to play the game of politics by schoolyard rules, which is why he started this campaign far more negatively than Rothman, challenging his political courage and ignoring the fact that he had a representative on the congressional redistricting commission, who negotiated a safe district for him on both the Democratic and Republican maps instead of the one-on-one with Garrett that Pascrell claims to have wanted so badly, but because Rothman had the temerity to hit back and harder, focusing on the issues, something that Pascrell has not wanted to talk about at all during this race, somehow he is the one who has been blamed for the race’s negative tone.  But I guess that is how schoolyard rules work.  Hit first and hope that the person you hit gets busted for hitting back.

    Which “overeager” surrogates would you be referring to, Jeff?  Babs, who described very different experiences with regards to the comfort level of the two candidates with the trans community, Steven, who described Rothman’s unparalleled commitment and dedication to the LGBT community’s issues of concerns, or myself, who has simply stated facts, including but not limited to Pascrell’s mixed record on a woman’s right to choose as scored by NARAL as well as him being the last Democratic congressman in NJ to agree to co-sponsor the DOMA repeal legislation.

    As an aggregate, their scoring might be similar, but within that aggregate are very clear contrasts on numerous issues that should be the focus of any primary election campaign in which Democrats have been given the rare opportunity to choose the candidate who is most progressive.  What you describe as a dishonest and negative campaign has been the Rothman’s campaign’s effort to refocus the race on the issues that matter to its constituents, particularly since Pascrell has been far more interested in name-calling and far less interested in talking about issues.

    As an “overeager” surrogate yourself, it is understandable that you would support the Pascrell campaign’s only talking point, which is that positions on issues do not matter and that the only thing that matters is that Rothman chose to run against Pascrell instead of Garrett and join them in ignoring the inconvenient truth, which is that before Rothman made his choice, Pascrell chose to have his representative on the congressional redistricting commission negotiate a safe district for him on both the Democratic and Republican maps instead of demanding the fight with Garrett that he and and everyone surrounding him claims that he craves.

    Also, if constituent services, accessibility, supporting local parties and candidates, advocating/supporting cleaner more open government, people-power, are intangibles that should matter to all progressives, then Pascrell is the last person who you should be supporting in this race and Rothman should be your choice.  The one thing that I will give Pascrell credit for is the quality of his staff and the even higher quality level of constituent services that they provide.  They are probably the best in the state, or if not, very close to it.  However, I know from personal experience that Pascrell has nothing to do with this.  This was a team that was first put together by his chief-of-staff, Ed Farmer, who was originally with Pascrell’s Democratic predecessor, Herb Klein, and it continues to have Ed’s fingerprints on it to this day, as Ben Rich, who followed Ed, is far more of a Washington-oriented chief-of-staff.  That said, say what you will about Rothman’s decision, but by choosing to run in CD9 instead of CD5, Rothman has displayed a passionate loyalty to his constituents in this new district that will undoubtedly produce a very high level of constituent service when he is returned to office in January.

    Even if I gave Pascrell a slight edge with regards to constituent service, based solely on the quality of the team that Ed put in place and Ben has maintained, you know as well as I do that Pascrell falls far short of Rothman in terms of advocating/supporting cleaner/more open government.  Pascrell is the de facto boss of Passaic County.  As the Municipal Chair of Hawthorne and a member of the Passaic County Democratic Organization’s Executive Committee, which makes all decisions with regards to which candidates for elected office are awarded a place on the party line, please tell us when the last time was, if ever, that a County Convention has been held, giving rank-and-file committee persons the opportunity to cast votes, using a secret ballot, for candidates seeking the party line.  As flawed as Bergen County’s committee voting system clearly is, at least they have a system.

    And when that deeply flawed system was corrupted and Ken Zisa almost defeated Loretta Weinberg in the special election to replace Byron Baer, who stood up to Joe Ferriero and held onto the questionable ballots?  It was Steve Rothman.  And when Joe Ferriero tried to give Rob Andrews the Bergen County line against Frank Lautenberg, who stood up to him, yet again?  It was Steve Rothman.  Conversely, as the de facto boss of Passaic County, Pascrell has only made the PCDO dirtier and less open.  It was Pascrell and Pascrell alone who kept your sworn enemy/temporary ally, John Girgenti in his State Senate seat in 2001, 2003, and 2007, despite the fact that a more progressive Democrat, Nellie Pou, was willing and able to challenge him.  Pascrell kept Girgenti in that office until Girgenti made the mistake of crossing Steve Sweeney and you.  If Girgenti had voted for Sweeney for Senate President and in favor of marriage equality, he would probably still be in the State Senate today and Pou would probably still be in the State Assembly.

    Add it all up and the clear choice should be Steve Rothman, Jeff, but unfortunately, you are still using the same faulty abacus that led you to support John Edwards in 2008.  One can only hope that someday, people discover the truth about Pascrell, the way that they finally discovered the truth about Edwards.  I know of at least one person who seems to have a lot of firsthand knowledge about this subject.

  4. 12mileseastofTrenton

    other than Rothman not taking on Garrett:

    Pascrell has gotten higher marks from labor groups, including police, firemen and teachers, because he has more consistently supported worker’s rights, and more strongly opposed outsourcing jobs to other countries.

  5. carolh

    This was just posted by the Pascrell campaign on Facebook.



    “As a long-time civil rights leader, I’m very concerned about reports

    of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in Paterson and Passaic by

    Pascrell’s opponent . . . we need Pascrell now more than ever before”

    PATERSON, N.J. – Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a leading figure in

    our nation’s civil rights struggle of the 1950’s and 1960’s and

    recognized along with Dr. King, Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph,

    James Farmer and Roy Wilkins as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the

    Civil Rights Movement, today recorded the following message for voters

    in the new 9th District in support of Bill Pascrell:

    “Hello, this is Congressman John Lewis from the state of Georgia

    urging you to vote for my dear friend, Bill Pascrell, for Congress

    today. As a long-time civil rights leader, I’m very concerned about

    reports of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in Paterson and

    Passaic by Pascrell’s opponent. We cannot let this team win, Bill

    Pascrell is the fighter north New Jersey needs in the House of

    Representatives and I ask that today you please come out and vote for

    Pascrell’s Democratic team. I hope I can count on you. We need Bill

    Pascrell now more than ever before.”


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