So, I just grabbed a pen out of my unruly selection of pens grabbed from everywhere, and held rather inelegantly in an old pretzel package. As I was watching swearing-in day for the 113th Congress on CNN.
Look which pen it was. If I’m right, this was a trinket from a reception jointly hosted by Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell at the state Dem conference in AC some year.
The 2012 primary battle between Rothman and Bill Pascrell was one of the ugliest and most accusatory I can remember – on both sides. Rothman was excoriated here (not by me) and elsewhere for choosing not to run against Republican Scott Garrett – choosing instead to compete against colleague Pascrell – after Rothman saw his Bergen neighborhood added to Garrett’s 5th when redistricting squeezed us into 12 congressional districts from 13, with Rothman the odd man out.
I don’t want to replay that; those arguments divided us even here. Both sides had merit. This is a good day for Bill Pascrell, a reliable Democrat if not always a progressive one. He’s being sworn in today, having vanquished Rothman, with a mandate strong enough there’s chatter he should jump into the race against Christie.
Rothman’s not having that kind of day, I imagine. Reminds me of something in Matt Friedman account of the dissolution of the friendship between Rothman and Pascrell (which I hope has improved). On the phone call where Rothman told Pascrell he’d challenge him in the primary:
“I love you, Billy,” Rothman told Pascrell before hanging up.
“I love you, Stevie,” Pascrell responded.
“In those days, that’s how we used to talk to each other,” said Rothman.
By the end of today, Steve Rothman will no longer be a member of Congress. There’s one thing particularly I want to thank him for. Before he goes.
In late 2009, several of us worked on this Open Letter Calling on Democratic Legislators to Post Marriage Equality Legislation for a Vote.
It was an effort to provide cover and backbone to legislators on the fence and worried about constituent backlash if they openly supported legal marriage in New Jersey between gay people in love. Our target signers were the political staff and advisors who got those legislators elected, supported their initiatives, provided both shoeleather and strategy, and sometimes funding to their campaigns. It was a ballsy thing for all the Democratic staffers who signed it. And the list represented most of the best Democratic talent in NJ. Some of those staffers took a risk going public. It was the right thing to do. And of course the legislature has since sent ME to the Governor, who vetoed it.
But as buzz grew about the letter, several NJ congressmen wanted to add their names in an appeal to their Democratic NJ colleagues in the legislature. One of them was Rothman, and I got that call.
As Garden State Equality, out front in NJ’s struggle for LGBT rights, changes leadership, I just want to thank outgoing Rep. Steve Rothman for being a public supporter of the rights of the minority. And for 15 years representing New Jersey in the House.
Disclosure: I’m a member of GSE’s large board.