Tag Archive: Steve Rothman

Why I’m with Bill Pascrell

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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.    

Rothman and Pascrell are two good public servants — but now I endorse one.

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Hi, Blue Jersey.  Today I released a statement announcing my endorsement in the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary.  Please read the first few paragraphs closely:  This is my personal endorsement, not that of Garden State Equality, which is not endorsing in this primary.  I recognize many of us have varying opinions on this race.  I couldn’t be upset with you no matter whom you support in the primary — for me, no primary can change that — and I hope you can feel the same way in return.  I appreciate it so much.


Steve Rothman for Congress

After much consideration, I am endorsing a candidate in the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary between Congress members Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell.

First, I must be clear:   The organization I lead, Garden State Equality, has not endorsed, and will not be endorsing, in this primary.   This is an endorsement by me alone.  Garden State Equality prefers to make no endorsements in primaries between multiple candidates who are pro-equality and electorally viable.  Our Executive Committee, which includes me, voted unanimously to affirm that policy in the Rothman-Pascrell race.

That is the right thing for Garden State Equality.   Though Steve Rothman has been a champion of marriage equality for several years, a few months ago Bill Pascrell also endorsed marriage equality.   Pushing an organizational endorsement in a primary between these two incumbents, each of whom has supporters in our organization, would have been an unnecessary slight to our members whose candidate were not being endorsed.  Our respect for one another is a reason why Garden State Equality has grown so large yet stayed so united.  

Our Executive Committee underscored that members of the organization are feel free to endorse in an individual capacity.  Several members have announced their respective endorsements.  Now I’d like to.

I endorse Steve Rothman because he has been a true leader on marriage equality.   I endorse Steve Rothman because I trust him with my civil rights life.

When considering two good and decent public servants who both favor marriage equality, I ask myself which candidate has been a leader for, and not just a supporter of, the cause.  I disagree that where candidates now share similar stances on a particular issue, it means their commitment is equal and that the issue should be taken off the table.   You shouldn’t buy that either.   This year, we saw in Trenton the importance of leadership.   If the Democratic leaders of our legislature were not the true leaders on marriage equality that they’ve been – but rather, were mere supporters who simply cast the correct votes – we would not have passed the marriage equality bill through both houses.  

For years Steve Rothman has nagged me with phone calls – regularly, personally, completely on his own – offering to help us win marriage equality in New Jersey.   Steve Rothman has gone miles beyond merely voting the correct way or signing letters of support when asked.

That’s what matters to me – far more than what candidates say or do during the campaign season.   Having worked up close and personally with a number of our elected officials, I have been fortunate to get to know them beyond campaign packaging.   What did they do for the cause in the years before the theatrics of the current campaign?

In this primary, Steve Rothman stands alone in the extraordinary degree to which he has advocated marriage equality behind the scenes.  In this primary, Steve Rothman is the only candidate who is a member of Garden State Equality’s Equality Hall of Fame.   The organization inducted him at its 2009 Legends Dinner, where he was the keynote speaker.

If you noticed Steve Rothman’s recent television commercial – likely the first commercial in American history by a sitting member of Congress to trumpet his or her support for marriage equality – you’ll understand, in the context of Steve’s passionate commitment over the years, that the commercial was no mere campaign tactic.  Our cause permeates Steve Rothman’s heart and soul.

To be sure, I don’t hold it against Bill Pascrell that he has said some harsh things about marriage equality.  He favors marriage equality now.  We must embrace every public official who comes our way, no matter the timing.  That’s part of building winning coalitions.  

But in making an endorsement, I care if there has been a real difference in advocacy separating two good public servants.  That Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell both support marriage equality now is great, but Steve Rothman has gone further for the cause, hands down.

And I care when my colleague in activism, Barbra Casbar Siperstein, reports that when she and other transgender leaders went to Capitol Hill to meet with members of our Congressional delegation, Steve Rothman was the one Congressman in this primary who met them personally.

In the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 5th, I proudly support Congressman Steve Rothman.  

Primary Elections Are Upon Us: Get Off Your Duff And Get Out The Vote

In 11 days, on June 5, over 5 million NJ voters will be eligible to cast ballots in the primaries. How many will show up at the polls? Will enough people who support your candidate vote? Can you help generate turnout? Below are the votes cast in recent NJ primary House races, and the other federal races at the time:


2004     333,416   Presidential

2006     329,057   Senate

2008     449,125   Senate (Presidential primary held separately earlier)

2010     413,138   none

With such lousy turnout (below 10%), it is no surprise when the victor is the candidate who got his/her people to the polls. Achieving strong turnout is all the more important in close races. Even the underdog can upset the leader with volunteers and a good ground game, and this year there are underdogs who need our help. Count on GOTV to make the difference between losers and winners in several races. Endorsements, money and local party support all help, but now is when canvassing, phoning, dropping off literature, delivering signage, talking to neighbors, and union engagement can make the key difference. Turnout will still be disappointing and has to be actively solicited, but volunteering for GOTV should start this weekend if you are not already involved.

Updated primary candidate financial data during the current election cycle through May 16 is starting to appear at the FEC website. The amount spent through May 16 appears in parentheses next to the candidate’s name. Some reports are not yet available, but should be shortly.

In CD 9 there are two Democratic candidates: Representatives Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman ($1,602,442) – well known, experienced and progressive. They have come out with their their campaign coffers overflowing and their guns blazing. The smoke is everywhere, although some of it is smoke and mirrors. With emotions high, the shoot-out is likely to result in a big turnout. Because of the closeness of the race GOTV will make the difference.

In CD 5 resentment against Republican conservative incumbent Scott Garrett ($531,961) on the part of newly reapportioned Democrats in the district as well as frustrated long-time residents will fuel some voter turnout. However, the Bergen County Democratic anointed candidate Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen generates little enthusiasm and has conducted a lackadaisical campaign. His competitor Marine veteran Jason Castle has proven more energetic, charismatic and progressive, but is new to the district and has been hobbled with a shoestring budget. For Castle to take the day, GOTV is essential.  

In CD 10 where there are four main candidates seeking to inherit the mantle of Donald Payne, Sr., the endorsements, party machine machinations, and candidate backroom alliances have seemed like a whirling dervish – high speed, unending, and enough to make us dizzy. Newark Council President Donald Payne, Jr. ($81,915) has the edge but not the enthusiasm of the electorate which his father enjoyed. Senator Nia Gill ($70,293) has her supporters, particularly outside of Newark. West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, Jr. has the opportunity to build on an enthusiastic cadre of district-wide progressives and Newark residents. Donald Payne, Jr. has recently become more active with a professional campaign staff and growing coffers, but he still lacks the popular support which Ron Rice might generate. At this point volunteering for GOTV is crucial.

In LD 16 Blue Jersey diarist, YouTube sensation and art teacher Marie Corfield faces former Princeton Twp. Deputy Mayor Sue Nemeth. Corfield has party endorsement in three counties, whereas Nemeth’s support is based in the Princetons. In this Assembly race there is substantially less campaign money for GOTV, and within LD 16 there are no Congressional Democratic primary contests to attract voters to the polls. All the more reason to volunteer to get out the vote.  

Pants on fire?

When Steve Rothman decided to move into the new 9th Congressional District to challenge Congressman Bill Pascrell, most political observers knew things would get nasty.  But no one knew the Rothman camp would resort to outright lies.  PolitiFact even went so far as give the Rothman campaign a “pants on fire” ruling for an outrageous distortion of Pascrell’s record on taxes.  Rothman will do and say whatever it costs to keep his seat in Congress – even if that means lying.

Voters aren’t going to be tricked into believing the lies coming from Rothman and his campaign.  Bill Pascrell has a strong record fighting for core Democratic values, protecting the middle class, and pushing back against Tea Party extremists.  Bill Pascrell didn’t run from the fight against the Tea Party, Steve Rothman did when he packed up and moved away from the fight against Scott Garrett in order to take on a Democrat.  The Star Ledger summed it up best: Rothman’s cheap shots are tarnishing his record.  Last week on The Brian Lehrer Show a former Rothman supporter expressed her frustrations, stating: “when it got cleared up, and I found out was really a kind of dirty politics the way he was saying these things about Pascrell, and each one can be explained, I’m voting for Pascrell.”  We need Bill Pascrell in Congress fighting for us like he has his whole career.  

Watch for yourself and don’t believe the lies coming from Rothman’s campaign:

Strange Bedfellows: Norcross and Pascrell Reunited Against Rothman

The first time that I ever saw Bill Pascrell, Jr. speak was at the 2000 NJDSC Conference, where he was speaking on behalf of Governor Jim Florio, who was running against Jon Corzine for the Democratic nomination to replace the retiring United States Senator Frank Lautenberg.  I was very impressed with the energy and enthusiasm in which he spoke about his longstanding relationship with Florio and against Jon Corzine and the millions that he was spending to try to buy a Senate seat, not to mention the anti-Italian slurs that Corzine was being accused of making by political gadfly, Michael Cino.

At the time, I thought that Pascrell, his people, and I were the only people who were working for Florio because of the respect that we had for him and everything that his body of work as a Congressman and Governor said about him as an elected official and a person.  It was because of this perception of Pascrell that I had as being cut from the same honorable cloth as Florio that I went to work on his re-election campaign after the Florio campaign ended.

However, I quickly learned that their shared Italian heritage was all that Florio and Pascrell had in common.  Florio was a soft-spoken, well-meaning, intellectual policy wonk, while Pascrell was a tough-talker who cared far more about image and perception (through the mass distribution of his own campaign lawn signs and the wholesale theft of his opponent’s) than policy-making.  In fact, his policy positions were pure Democratic Party boilerplate, indistinguishable from hundreds of other Democratic candidates running across the country.  During this election and the years that followed, I would learn that like Bob Menendez in Hudson County, Pascrell was far more interested in ruling Passaic County politics than advocating for issues of any kind in Washington.

But as disappointing a person as Pascrell became to me, I assumed that his ties to George Norcross, who was the driving force behind Governor Florio’s Senatorial primary election campaign in 2000 were severed on the day that the primary election ended.  In the years that followed, Norcross has tried to build alliances with elected officials and party leaders outside of his base in Norcrossippi and he has been successful on occasion, most recently in Essex and Hudson Counties, enabling him to gain control over the Democratic Party establishment throughout most of the state.  That said, until yesterday, I thought that Bill Pascrell, Jr. was still independent and that Passaic County was still free soil.  That may no longer be the case.

News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, May 15, 2012 – WTF Edition


What the Flack?

Governor Christie announces a “surprise” news conference on taxes. The surprise is that there’s no news conference. Meanwhile, the Treasurer delays publication of April revenue data. What does that do to the credibility of a tax cut?

The Democrats’ circular firing squad is at work again.

What the Frack?

Do you want your neighbor dumping his sewage in your back yard? I didn’t think so.

Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel gives a report card grade to the governor and the legislature on environmental stewardship.

What the Hack?

Will the Rutgers-Rowan controversy result in a Rutgers-Rowan campus? Who decides the school colors? How does the “Brown and Gold Knights” sound to ya?

Chalk up a win for GN3 and his buddy CC

Rothman/Pascrell Debate

I don’t have a dog in this race, but in today’s environment, it’s very refreshing to see two candidates argue over who is the most progressive.

Ravi Demonstration

Supporters of Dharun Ravi gathered in front of the State House to urge the court not to send Ravi to jail. Ravi was convicted on several charges for using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s activities. If he gets a jail term, Ravi is subject to deportation.  

Ravi is not the only one looking for a break from the courts.

Our perennial favorite.


The “C” in their name stands for “conniption”. JC Penney has 15 stores in New Jersey and the conniption is coming from the bigots. Here’s why you should shop there.

Blue Jersey writer Senator Loretta Weinberg on Marriage Equality and Equal Pay. She spoke with Mike Schneider yesterday, before the press conference brouhaha.  

Watch Sen. Weinberg Wants Marriage Equality, Equal Pay in NJ on PBS.  See more from WNJT.

Bill Clinton endorses Bill Pascrell

We’ve been waiting for this one.

In 2008, when almost all of New Jersey’s Democratic County Chairs, Governor Corzine and a raft of the Garden State’s packlike Democratic electeds were supporting Hillary Clinton, Steve Rothman stuck his neck out for Barack Obama. I remember the Democratic State Conference that year in Atlantic City, when one by one at a luncheon each member of the Democratic congressional delegation stepped up to the microphone, to predictable enthusiastic clapping from the faithful. Rothman used his time at the podium to deliver a speech outlining why Barack Obama should win, and why he was going to. You could have heard a pin drop. Stunning. That speech was chattered about all day in the hallways, where the real convos happen. It cheeky, particularly given Hillary Clinton’s appearance later during that same convention (if I remember right).

Flash forward. Rothman became Northeast Regional Co-Chair of Obama’s campaign, Hillary took New Jersey (by 10 points), but Obama’s soaring messaging and better ground game took the nomination. Bill Clinton, politically loyal where his wife’s fortunes are concerned, remembers who stood by her. This is the biggest endorsement so far on either side in the CD9 primary. Will Obama now endorse?

Here’s the Team Pascrell’s statement, with quotes both from President Clinton, and from candidate Rep. Bill Pascrell:


“I know Bill Pascrell, and he is the fighter we need to support President Obama. Bill helped write President Obama’s health care law, he’s a leader protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and he never stops fighting for the middle class.  Nothing is more important to Bill than creating jobs in New Jersey. I saw that in the eight years we worked together to build unprecedented prosperity for America. We can’t afford to lose his ideas, energy, and experience just when they’re needed most.”


“I am honored to have the support of Bill Clinton. Fighting side by side with President Clinton, our nation achieved tremendous prosperity and a balanced budget. Today, the Republicans are promoting the same George Bush policies that ended President Clinton’s era of prosperity – special interest tax breaks, tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts in  education and job training, all leading to record deficits.  Those policies failed, but the Tea Party Republicans want to bring them all back and that’s why I’m running, to stop the Tea Party.”

Saturday Poll: Pascrell vs. Rothman

Because of redistricting two accomplished Democratic members of the House of Representatives are vying for the same seat in CD 9 in the upcoming June 5 primary.

Let us know which candidate you prefer to be the Representative for the 9th District:  

Steve Rothman


Bill Pascrell

Go beyond the fold to cast your vote and see the results so far.

In the comments section let us know the reason for your selection and if you are in the newly configured CD9 tell us so.  

Petty Politics in the 9th

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When comparing two progressive Democrats with fairly identical voting records, one cannot be surprised that the differences raised between them are more superficial than substantive. After all, I think we can all agree that the Democratic primary in the 9th will do nothing to raise the tone of our political debate. But out of the gate, the Rothman and Pascrell camps have engaged in the petty politics that is both unnecessary and, arguably, unhelpful to both their campaigns.

First off, because of the two Democrats’ similarities, Pascrell’s criticism of Rothman’s decision to run away from a fight with Garrett is strong. How can Rothman claim to be a bold progressive when he was unwilling to make a bold stand against NJ’s most conservative Congressman? It’s an argument that resonates among the progressive community especially, and in many ways, it is an argument that makes itself.

But the move by the Pascrell-Duffy camp to try to reinforce the message, by having Duffy stage a fake, rehearsed flirtation with a Congressional run in the 5th was wrong. In addition, the disrespect Pascrell-Duffy showed the voters of the 5th District in the process weakened their main criticism of Rothman, that he was unwilling to seriously challenge Garrett.

CD9: NJTV Interview with Steve Rothman

Rep. Steve Rothman, locked with Bill Pascrell into what has so far been a painful Democratic primary to watch in CD9, sat for an interview with Mike Schneider, host of NJ Today, NJTV’s nightly public affairs show airing last night.

Schneider gets right into the question the Pascrell campaign has hammered Rothman for weeks, why he chose to run in the CD9 instead of CD5 which is where congressional redistricting placed his Fairlawn home (now up for sale, he’s moved back to Englewood in the 9th, where he used to be mayor). Schneider also asks Rothman for a rundown of the votes and issues that differentiate his record from Pascrell’s. Rothman says progressive Democrats are going to determine who wins the Democratic primary. And to Schneider’s question about reports Rothman sent letters to Republican Orthodox rabbis asking them to register to vote for him in the Democratic primary, Rothman said the letters were paid for by the campaign, but the idea generated amongst the rabbis themselves. But I don’t want to talk/write through it when you can be watching.

NJ Today:

Watch Steve Rothman Defends Decision to Run in Ninth District on PBS.  See more from WNJT.