Democrat Teaneck Councilman and Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen running for Congress in the 5th CD exudes confidence, “We are excited. We have a compelling story and the ability to win.” He is on a full-time leave of absence from his corporate job. He has been criscrossing the large 5-county district, and doing a lot of walking as attested to by the soles of his shoes. Fundraising has been difficult, so he has not implemented expensive mailings, but has instead generated some 300,000 robo calls.
He has a tough race against incumbent Republican arch-conservative Scott Garrett who has been in office almost ten years and has held winning margins ranging from 55% to 65% in past elections. What is known as the Romney/Ryan Budget Plan, as Gussen points out, is really the Ryan/Garrett Plan. Garrett’s pandering to financial institutions is off the charts and his social views are antediluvian. Enough said. If you want to know more visit Retire Garrett.
Nonetheless Gussen is confident he is within striking distance because the race is more to the Democratic candidate’s advantage this year. Prior to last year’s redistricting the 5th CD was about 60% Republican and 40% Democrat, whereas now it is about 52% Republican and 48% Democrat, more favorable than most other Republican districts. He is running on the same ballot as President Obama and Senator Menendez who are popular and will assure more turn-out than in a non-presidential year. He also points to the Bergen County Republican party which is experiencing problems including those most recently of Assemblyman Robert Schroeder.
Gussen focuses on how the district has changed and how it advantages him:
“After redistricting, the new 5th district has gained important democratic towns such as Hackensack, Fair Lawn and Teaneck making this a very competitive district. The Democratic turnout in the most Democratic towns in the district is between 80% and 90%. President Obama lost to Sen. McCain by 9,000 votes across the Sussex county portion of the new district. He also lost by 8,000 votes in the Warren County portion of the district. However, President Obama won the City of Hackensack (a new town in the district) by over 9,000 votes and he also won the town of Teaneck (also a new town in the district) by over 8,000, wiping out the difference in the western portion of the district.
Once we add all the votes for the congressional candidates in 2008 in the towns of the new district and we add new communities, Congressman Scott Garrett is only favored to win by as few as 8,000 votes. A far smaller margin than Congressman Garrett won in 2008 over Congressional Candidate Dennis Shulman.”
The key to the race is Bergen County where about 70% of the voters and 90% of the Democrats reside. The Democratic Committee of Bergen County, with much less money than it used to have, provides Gussen with office space and in-kind services.
See below the fold how Gussen analyzes Bergen County, his finances, issues, and an upcoming debate.
Here is how Gussen analyzes his opportunities in Berrgen County
“This race comes down to Bergen County, whose voters are fairly moderate in terms of political affiliation. Additionally there are independent voters particularly women who are more likely to vote for a moderate progressive candidate than a radical right wing conservative candidate like Garrett. Bergen County has had a resident member of congress for eighty years and with the recent loss of Steve Rothman to Bill Pascrell of Paterson, the race becomes even closer as the value of “local” representation resonates throughout the county.”
The supposed prowess of Representative Garrett looms over the race making fundraising difficult. During the primary Gussen had hopes of being able to raise as much as $1 million for his campaign, but has had to moderate his financial goals. He will be reporting at the end of this month that he has raised more than the $5,000 amount which triggers a statement to the FEC, but he did not want to say how much above that level. He plans further fundraisers in October.
On the issues: Gussen emphasizes the need for more jobs. He is interested in looking further into Rep. Bill Pascrell’s jobs bill, providing incentives for companies to hire, and penalties for moving jobs off-shore. He strongly supports women’s health, abhors Rep. Todd Akin’s recent comment about “legitimate rape,”and supports funding for Planned Parenthood. He is pro-choice and supports marriage equality. He says, “I am a true friend to Israel, not a fair-weather friend [like Garrett.’]
For more on the issues, you can attend his debate with Scott Garrett on Sunday, October 7 at 10:00 AM at Temple Beth Haverim Shir Shalom at 280 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah.
In summary he says, “The new 5th District deserves new leadership. We deserve leadership that’s not just beholden to big banks and mortgage lenders, big oil and special interests, but someone who will stand up for middle class families.”
He subscribes to a truism in politics that you can always win if you are unopposed, lose if you are too cocky, but win if you run scared. He runs scared but determined.
(Disclosure: I am a new member of the 5th District and will vote for Adam Gussen, but am not working on his campaign in any capacity.)