How to strike the right note in this diary. Now, that’s a challenge. As someone who has been an outspoken fan of primaries, I certainly can’t and won’t join the chorus of Democratic leaders horrified by Steve Rothman’s decision to run against Bill Pascrell in a primary solely because a primary is expensive or can be divisive. Sometimes, primaries are important ideological fights and can be valuable party-building opportunities.
Unfortunately, the situation in NJ-9 is clearly neither: Steve Rothman, unhappy with the outcome of Congressional Redistricting, is moving from his home in Fair Lawn 10 miles east to somewhere in Englewood for the sole purpose of challenging his fellow Democrat, Bill Pascrell, because he calculates that’s the best way to stay in Congress.
Instead of using his sizeable war chest – and up to $2 million additional dollars of funding from the DCCC – to challenge Scott Garrett, we now get to watch him spend that money against his friend, a democratic colleague with whom he has no ideological or political dispute. At a minimum, I considered this a disappointing decision, which I assumed was reached after much soul-searching.
So, I was shocked to learn that Rothman never seriously weighed running against Republican Scott Garrett. While nearly every democrat in New Jersey rejoiced at what appeared to be the potential finally to take out our most conservative tea-party Congressman, Steve Rothman never even seriously considered that opportunity.
That’s a huge loss for the Democratic Party. Rothman is running away from a winnable fight with Scott Garrett, and running against one of the most effective – and most progressive – members of Congress. If the City of Paterson had been moved into Scott Garrett’s district, we all know Bill Pascrell would be all in trying to take Garrett out. And that contrast is something I think Democrats can and should fairly take into consideration when evaluating who they are supporting this June.
It’s no secret where I stand. I was on a long list of Bergen, Hudson and Passaic County officials endorsing Bill Pascrell. I’m standing with Pascrell for a lot of reasons – his strong record fighting for the middle class, his tireless work to obtain national park status for the Great Falls and his commitment to job creation. But I’m also disappointed. Disappointed Rothman would rather start this fight than take on a Tea Party Republican we’ve been trying to oust for years.
As the Record’s Al Doblin noted, if Rothman were to run against Garrett, “Even if [he] lost, he would win” – a hero among democrats for taking on the fight. Instead, Rothman’s putting himself in a position where the exact opposite might happen.
I’m still hoping he reconsiders. Or at least gives it serious consideration.