Leading up to June, Secaucus will be the site of future campaigning as two veteran Democrats, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) go head to head in a heated primary battle. The clash is the result of redistricting, as the U.S. Census forced portions of Congressional Districts 5, 8, and 9 to combine into two districts. Secaucus and Kearny are the only Hudson County municipalities in the new 9th Congressional District.
The redistricting originally pitted Rep. Rothman against Republican Rep. Scott Garret (R-Wantage) in the 5th District. But Rothman moved to Englewood, choosing to run in the 9th against fellow Democrat Pascrell, much to the Democrats’ chagrin. They would have liked him to face Garret in November, as he is a very conservative Republican. But he was favored to win by four points.
Secaucus and Kearny are the only Hudson County municipalities in the new 9th Congressional District.
Pascrell is considered the incumbent in the newly drawn district and had represented the nearby 8th District since 1996. He is a resident and the former mayor of Paterson, which is the largest city in the new 9th District.
While the race is a battle between two veteran Democrats, one from Passaic County and the other from Bergen County, the nature of the split and closeness in the number of votes makes Hudson County and Secaucus an important source of support.
Lining up support
Rothman hired Vision Media, a political consulting and PR firm, to manage the campaign. He was quick to announce a list of supporters in December shortly after he made the announcement that he would run against Pascrell. Among those, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (his one-time chief of staff), Sen. and Mayor of North Bergen Nick Sacco, and Secaucus Democratic Municipal Chairman Nick Goldsack have endorsed Rothman.
“Congressman Rothman has been proud to represent Secaucus in Congress for the last 15 years. He has an excellent relationship with local officials,” said Phil Swibinski of Vision Media. “Residents of Secaucus should vote for him because he's an outstanding member of Congress who has consistently delivered for his constituents and always stands up for their best interests. He's the best choice to continue fighting for Secaucus.”
“He has been our congressman for 15 years. It is my intent to fully support him,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
“He has been a good friend and a good congressman to the area,” said Prieto. “He has been a great public servant. It is kind of difficult to say no to someone who has been so wonderful to our community.” Prieto added that he has known Rothman for a long time and that his office works closely with his on a day-to-day basis such as dealing with constituents that have immigration issues. He also said that Rothman was very helpful after Hurricane Irene when the town experienced severe flooding.
Among what Rothman has done for Secaucus specifically, his spokespeople said he secured $50,000 for communications equipment for the Secaucus Police Department in 2006, $100,000 for police technology in a 2009 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill, and money from a Secure Our Schools Grant in 2003.
Stumping in Secaucus
While Swibinski would not indicate whether Rothman will make a stop in Secaucus because the schedule is still in the early planning stages, Pascrell’s campaign spokesperson Sean Darcy said that Secaucus is among the list of places Pascrell will visit leading up to June.
“He will be reaching out to all the districts,” said Darcy.
Darcy said that he will go to Secaucus “to speak to constituents and to let them know what he stands for.” He said that one of Pascrell’s strengths is meeting with his constituents and that he is distinguished by fighting for people in his district.
“He is a tireless worker and a tireless campaigner,” said Darcy.
Pascrell released his list of supporters last week, including Hudson County freeholders William O’Dea and Jeffrey Dublin, Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Montclair), and state Senator-elect Nellie Pou (D-Paterson).
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.