Tag Archive: Steve Rothman

Thank you, Steve Rothman

photo-1

photo-2So, 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.

The Fiscal Cliff and Sandy

“I urge the speaker to reconsider this unconscionable, inexplicable refusal to let us vote,” said Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Englewood, on the floor. “What is going on in his caucus, or in his mind?”

Once again the urgent need for Sandy Relief Aid was set aside yesterday. What was going on in the Republican caucus was the dysfunction for which we are all too familiar. Speaker Boehner showed leadership in ordering an up or down vote on the fiscal cliff bill, in spite of opposition from many of his members including Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In the case of Sandy relief Boehner bowed to his fractious caucus members, many of whom seek to reduce hurricane funding.  

Yesterday the NJ House contingent did us proud. 12 of 13 members voted in favor of the Fiscal Cliff Bill (HR 8) with the notable and unsurprising exception of Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) who lives in an alien world oddly detached from NJ and his own constituents. Of course, he was not alone as 151 Republicans in total voted to drag us further over the cliff and into the rough waters of a potential stock market crash, bond rating decrease, economic recession, and misery for all Americans.

Regarding the $60 billion hurricane relief bill, a  Boehner spokesperson would only say, The Speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.” Two months after Sandy the House has so far failed to respond to our crisis.  

According to WNYC’s Bob Hennelly, Republicans plan to split the $60 billion bill into two separate measures – a $27 billion and $33 billion package. The $33 billion package would provide political cover for Tea Party Republicans who remain deeply skeptical of the cost effectiveness of mitigation measures and who are likely to vote against it. Sources are confident the House will have the 217 vote majority to pass both.

When the House will vote on relief remains uncertain and any amendment would have to go back to the Senate. In the meantime New Jerseyans are stuck without the monies needed to begin restoration efforts and are about to find out that the federal insurance flood fund will run out of money this week.

A salute to retiring progressive warhorse Rep. Steve Rothman who in a few words encapsulated our frustration and anger against a Republican House which stands divided and divisive.  

In the ‘Hard E-mails to Write’ Category …

Pascrell fundraising letter by Rothman

In the inboxes of Democrats all over New Jersey today is a fundraising appeal for Rep. Bill Pascrell from, and including a picture of, Steve Rothman.

Not very long ago, these men were locked into one of the most unpleasant and painful primary battles in the country; two colleagues on equal footing and similar backgrounds whose teams were merciless on each other. I’ll spare you the links; we all remember and we’re all still recovering. Pascrell won the duel, and barring a big-ass asteroid slamming into the Earth, will remain in Congress. Rothman, left politically homeless by redistricting and primary defeat, is at the end of more than 25 years in elected office.

But he’s still a congressman for a few months longer. And his name and requests still mean a great deal to NJ Democrats. There’s something very welcome in this email for one old friend, from another. Wounds not exactly healed, and maybe never, but circles coming around.

Full email is after the jump, including where to send campaign contributions to the NJ-9 Democratic nominee for Congress, Bill Pascrell.

Open Primary Elections – Something New Jersey Could Learn About From California

Considering the fact that both Democrats and Republicans in New Jersey are equally committed to having as few competitive congressional and legislative districts as possible, I think that democracy in our state could definitely benefit from an open primary election law similar to California’s as described in this article about the primary election between two of California’s Democratic Congressmen, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, who faced off yesterday, and as the top-two vote-getters in their district, will face off again in November.

If New Jersey had a similar law as California, both Ron Rice and Steve Rothman would have a second chance at being elected to Congress in November as both were the second-highest vote-getters in their districts in yesterday’s primary elections.  In CD9, Rothman received nearly four times as many votes as the Republican primary election winner, Rabbi Shmueley Boteach, and in CD10, I was unable to find vote totals for the Republican candidate, Brian Keleman, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that he received less than a tenth of the number of votes that Rice received.

I don’t know how California’s ballots look nor do I know if the top vote-getters in their open primary elections gain any kind of competitive advantage in the general election, but there can be no doubt that their approach is far more democratic than New Jersey’s.  Obviously, it is too late for a law like this to benefit Rice or Rothman, but it is something that progressives should consider going forward and possibly work with anti-establishment conservatives to get bipartisan support for.

Primary Postcript: My thoughts on the 9th CD

Thank God it’s over.  Nothing in politics is more dissonant than a primary where your friends are on all sides.

It feels so right to be united, now, with friends like Jeff Gardner, Dave Parano , Jacky Grindrod and Michael Galluccio – all fantastic people – in support of a good man, Bill Pascrell.  Last night immediately after the results came in, Garden State Equality endorsed Bill Pascrell, as well as Donald Payne Jr. and Marie Corfield.  Garden State Equality had not endorsed in any of their primaries.

Too bad I live in the part of Teaneck, which the redistricting commission cynically divided into two Congressional districts, that falls into the new 5th district, where the race is between Adam Gussen and Scott Garrett.

I digress:  Adam Gussen, if you’re reading this, call me on my cell, (917) 449-8918, and let’s get together for lunch.   If Loretta wants me to support you, trust me, I do what the #1 woman in my life says – almost all the time.  

Over lunch, Adam, I’ll tell you about your fellow Teaneck council member, Elie Katz.

Like you and me, Elie is observant.  After we passed the marriage equalty bill earlier this year, Elie mailed to my home a $250 donation to Garden State Equality with a warm note of congratulations.  I didn’t expect it.  I don’t know Elie well.  But I was moved beyond measure.   So don’t be afraid, Adam.  Be a real Bergen Democrat.

Now back to the Pascrell-Rothman race.  What happened?  Here’s how I see it:

1.   Steve Rothman has been a spectacular public official whom I genuinely adore, personally and for the work he’s put into marriage equality over the years.  But the wrong campaign was run for him, and yes, I know, no one can run a wrong campaign without his or her consent.  If you’re thinking that, Blue Jersey, you are 100 percent right.  In a nutshell, I believe negative campaigns do work, sadly, but not all negative campaigns do, and not all places are conducive to negative campaigns.  

As a result, voters in Bergen who are Steve Rothman’s natural base got turned off and didn’t vote.  Most still didn’t vote for Bill Pascrell – they just didn’t vote.  I felt the sea change in opinion the last few weeks when ordinary people in the area, not just us political heads, began saying, “I don’t like the campaign Rothman is running.”  I was hearing it all over, deep into Rothman country.  

2.   Steve Rothman’s campaign raised Bill Pascrell’s profile in Bergen.  Frankly, I don’t think many people in Bergen heard of Bill Pascrell.  Politics, particularly in New Jersey, is that hyperlocal.   And when they took a first look at Bill Pascrell, they liked him.  When they took a second and third look, they liked him.  It’s hard not to like the guy.  He’s a fighter with an easy smile, warm shoulder and friendly wink.  Heck, I wish my own dad were like him.

3.   Bill Pascrell’s message that he was the incumbent in this district, which he and his campaign inculcated from the moment Steve Rothman announced his intention to run in the new 9th, worked precisely because of Bill Pascrell’s s demeanor.  The message doesn’t often work if the messenger is a pill – and voters found Bill Pascrell to be quite the opposite of a pill.

4.   There was an easy message Steve Rothman didn’t use enough with Bergen voters:  Bergen deserves a Congress member.  Say it over and over, inculcate it over and over.  Do you, Bergen voters, want to be without someone from our county representing you for the first time in your lifetime?  

Of course Bill Pascrell knows how to represent Bergen just fine, thank you very much.  But back to the rule of New Jersey politics:  All politics is hyperlocal.  The message would have been a hell of a lot cleaner and would have resonated more.

5.   GOTV.  Whatever Steve Rothman’s campaign spent on GOTV – and I don’t know what it was, for I, as an individual, endorsed Steve Rothman but wasn’t involved in the workings of the campaign – the GOTV budget should have been doubled or tripled, even at the expense of the ad campaign.  And I say that as a media guy by background.

It’s not hard to anticipate it is easier to do GOTV in a concentrated city like Paterson than in disperse suburban towns like in Bergen.

Like Loretta, I’m sad for the loss of Steve Rothman from our Congressional delegation.  He’s done amazing work for the causes closest to my heart.  Perhaps his major flaw is that he never wore his support on his sleeve over the years – he fought and fought for us behind the scenes with great devotion and effectiveness.

But Bill Pascrell won this battle fair and square and cleanly. A truly good man impressed us all with a truly good campaign.  I wish I could say I’m proud to have him as my new member of Congress.  

Alas, I’m a few streets too far away.

CD9: Pascrell gets air support from Rep. John Lewis, Team Rothman says Lewis was “duped”

Few things carry the power of a call in support for a candidate from a respected leader. Fewer things are more tricky to overcome for an opponent than a call from a respected leader that comes as your voters are headed to the polls. That may be the effect that Georgia congressman John Lewis’ robo-call into CD9 for Bill Pascrell this morning may have. (call text below the fold) This follows an ugly night of concern by Team Rothman of vote tampering, a charge by Team Pascrell of racism in Rothman’s ranks, then this morning that robo-call for Pascrell from a fellow House Democrat who sat at Martin Luther King’s right hand and carries great credibility in matters of racism. But Team Rothman says Lewis was “duped”:

“What a shameful, shameful, terrible act of desperation by the Pascrell campaign. Shameful. It’s shameful he was duped like that. You’re supposed to be able to examine vote for mail ballots before they’re opened. But that’s okay, we’re feeling good. We’re confident it’s going to be a good day.”

Last night, CD9 was New Jersey’s election flashpoint. A lawyer for the Steve Rothman campaign raised a red flag about possible irregulaties, including a Paterson storefront covered in Pascrell signs where passers-by were being told they could fill out vote-by-mail ballots inside. Rothman’s campaign wanted more time to examine the ballots before they were opened. Passaic County Elections Superintendent Robert J. DeMers Jr. ordered the ballots impounded. But late last night that order was vacated by a Superior Court Judge. That judge gave the Rothman campaign a 90-minute head start this morning at 6am, before the Board of Elections opening and counting them at 7:30am.  

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.

Primaries: All Sorts Of Dogs In This Fight

With so many primaries tomorrow you may not have a “dog in the fight” in most cases. However, comparisons to “man’s best friend” is one way to view individual candidates. Below are somewhat biased comments on competitive primaries and a link to what NJ Spotlight says about each race. Don’t forget to vote or the candidate you get may be a dog.  

CD 5: Parts of Bergen, Sussex, Warren, and Passaic Counties

Jason Castle – Underdog and Working Dog: Democrat, newcomer, Marine Veteran, low-funded but has “wind in his sails.”  

Adam Gussen – Non-Working Dog: Democrat, Teaneck Deputy Mayor, has not reported receiving any campaign contributions and appears reliant on the Bergen party committee to turn out the vote for him.

Diane Sare – Pariah Dog: Larouche Democrat, whose call for President Obama’s impeachment makes her anathema to most Democrats.  

Scott Garrett – Guard Dog: Republican incumbent, super-funded, protecting the constitution, the wealthy, social values and the Great American Conservative Way, and has his own inconsequential primary.

CD 7: Parts of Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset and Union Counties

Leonard Lance – Pet Dog: Republican incumbent, who seeks love from everyone, but veers to the right, well-funded, and ahead.  

David Larsen – Attack Dog: Chairman of a conservative advocacy group, veering further to the right, snapping at Lance’s heels with support from two large Tea Party organizations and New Jersey Right-to-Life.

CD 9; Parts of Bergen, Hudson and Passaic Counties

Bill Pascrell – Uber Dog: Democrat, from Passaic, has raised mucho dinero, has support of Bill Clinton, endorsed by the Record and a “working man’s” Democrat.

Steve Rothman – Uber Dog: Democrat, from Bergen, has raised mucho dinero, has support from Obama camp, and a champion for women’s and gay rights.  

CD 10: Parts of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties

Ron Rice, Jr. – Working Dog: Democrat, Newark West Ward Councilman, hardworking campaigner and councilman, has national and local endorsement of the Star Ledger, DFA, unions, Dick Codey, broad swath of progressives, and more.

Don Payne, Jr. – Designer Dog: Democrat, Newark Council President, an empty vessel with his opinions and activities guided by staff, well funded, legacy candidate, party-supported in Essex, and many national and local endorsements.

Nia Gill – Feisty Dog: Montclair Democrat, endorsed by Sen. Weinberg, speaking out for women, but running only in the regular, not special, primary.

Wayne Smith – Underdog: Democrat, Mayor of Irvington, low-funded and not a big player in this hotly contested race.

LD 16 (Assembly): Parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties

Marie Corfield – Feisty, Working Dog: Democrat, School Teacher, unafraid to stand up against Governor Christie, with strong NJEA support, endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Weinberg and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and has the party line in Somerset, Hunterdon and Middlesex counties.  

Sue Nemeth – Possible Underdog: Democrat, former Princeton Deputy Mayor and hoping for strong support in the Princetons and South Brunswick.  

U .S. Senate: Statewide

Joe Kyrillos – Uberdog: Republican, State Senator (Monmouth), not well known by New Jerseyans, but well funded for the primary where he has Christie’s and broad party support. He is running against lowly underdogs Bader Qarmout, David-Douglas Brown and Joe “Rudy” Rullo. He is an underdog and underfunded in the November race against U. S. Senator Robert Menendez who faces no primary.  

One Good Turn Deserves Another: An Open Letter to Frank Lautenberg

Dear Senator Lautenberg:

I am writing to ask you to endorse your good friend and political ally, Congressman Steve Rothman, whose political career is on the line this Tuesday, June 5, when he faces Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. in the primary election in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District.

You more than anyone should know what it means to have your career be on the line in a primary election.  After victoriously returning to the United States Senate as the replacement candidate for disgraced former Senator Robert “When did we become such an unforgiving people?” Torricelli (who Pascrell supported when Torricelli was considering a gubernatorial run in 2000-2001) in 2002, you were challenged in 2008 by Congressman Rob Andrews, a minion of Norcrossippi party boss, George Norcross, and in an attempt to flex his political muscles outside of his Norcrossippi fiefdom, Norcross reached out to the other party bosses.

One of these bosses was Bergen County Bossman Joe Ferriero, who for some time had been embroiled in a feud with the progressive State Senator Loretta Weinberg and was looking for allies who could help him defeat her once and for all.  Ferriero and Norcross were on the verge of striking a deal that would provide Ferriero with the help that he was seeking in return for him delivering the BCDO’s party line to Rob Andrews, which would have likely produced a domino effect that would have also resulted in Andrews getting the lines in other Democratic strongholds in North and Central Jersey, almost guaranteeing him victory in the primary election.

There should be a Godwin’s Law for Debating the Primary Election in CD9

Since Godwin’s Law specifically concerns making analogies or comparisons with Hitler and/or the Nazis, It is possible that I may have already violated it by calling for a similar law concerning how we debate the Democratic primary election in CD9, but because I believe that the coward/fighter card has been played to such an extent that even an “academic” (with political ambitions that could be realized by having good friends in Clifton and West Paterson in particular and Passaic County in general) like Mark Alexander and the Star-Ledger editorial board are willing to play gutter politics and use it, I am willing to chance it, because reasonable people need to recognize not just the rhetoric’s fraudulence, but also how far out of bounds it truly is.

For anyone who is not familiar with Godwin’s Law, wikipedia describes it as follows:

Godwin’s law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies[1][2]) is an observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990[2] that has become an Internet adage. It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”[2][3] In other words, Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion-regardless of topic or scope-someone inevitably makes some comparison to Hitler and the Nazis.

But even more important than the law itself is the more common corollary:

There are many corollaries to Godwin’s law, some considered more canonical (by being adopted by Godwin himself)[3] than others.[1] For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.[8] This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin’s law. It is considered poor form to raise such a comparison arbitrarily with the motive of ending the thread. There is a widely recognized corollary that any such ulterior-motive invocation of Godwin’s law will be unsuccessful.[9]

Applied similarly to the Democratic primary election in CD9, such a corollary/law would disqualify any argument involving a candidate’s choice to run in a particular district versus another district, because while it is all well and good to repeat a desperate campaign’s only talking point ad nauseum (or reductio ad Rothmanum if you will), doing so only serves to lower the level of discourse and does not reflect well on the person making the argument, regardless of whether or not they might have personal political motives for debasing themselves and destroying their credibility in such a way.