As quoted before in this column, Will Rogers once observed that Republicans often feed on Democrats, and Democrats also feed on fellow Democrats.
Never has this been so clearly evident than in the game of political musical chairs set into motion by a so-called bipartisan New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission that had to select a map for new congressional districts.
Because of a reduction in the state’s population reflected in the 2010 Census, the committee had to find a way to reduce the state’s congressional districts by one.
In selecting the GOP map, the committee originally pitted Democrat Rep. Steve Rothman against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett in a newly-configured 5th District – a tough battle for Rothman to win.
But Rothman opted to move from Fair Lawn to Englewood, where he once served as mayor, choosing to undergo a primary battle against fellow Democrat Bill Pascrell in the newly- redrawn 9th District, guaranteeing that New Jersey and the national Democratic Party will lose at lease one powerful liberal Democrat come next year’s general election.
To avoid this, national Democrats offered Rothman millions in the hope that Rothman could beat Garrett, who is seen as the state’s most conservative congressman. But they failed in their quest.
Garrett routinely gobbles up his Democratic challengers, which is why national Democrats wanted to see him tangle with Rothman, one of the premier Democratic congressmen in the state.
The combat between two veteran Democrats will also create a problem for President Barack Obama’s reelection, since Democrats will be split at a time when Obama needs to carry New Jersey to be reelected. Also, as several sources have pointed out, no matter who wins, bad feelings will remain among Democrats in northern New Jersey, and that promises to make it easier for Republican Gov. Christopher Christie to win reelection in 2013, a year in which the entire state Senate and Assembly are also up for reelection.
Some people believe that Rothman – who wants to become a U.S. Senator from New Jersey – would have been better served fighting the good fight against Garrett, rather than creating what will become a blood-feud among Democrats. As others have said, even if Rothman lost, he would have been a Democratic hero. Now, some Democrats may be reluctant to support his effort for U.S. Senate in the future.
Still, endorsements for Rothman are pouring in – including strong support from Hudson County, where State Sen. Nicholas Sacco, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, his one-time chief of staff, Nick Goldsack, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, and Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari have announced their support, not to mention huge support from Bergen and Passaic County legislators.
The 9th District in Hudson County has been trimmed to only Secaucus and West Hudson. So Rothman’s decision is a huge gamble for Hudson Democrats, if he should lose.
Public relations for Rothman are being run by Vision Media, and the strategy is to come out with a lot of political fire power early to discourage Pascrell from challenging Rothman.
There is some logic behind the plan. Pascrell was significantly weakened in the districting process, losing most of his Essex County base, leaving him with his Passaic County base and a large piece of Bergen County that Rothman has represented for years
While Pascrell hasn’t yet racked up the same number of political endorsements, he has put together a pretty impressive campaign team, and though he isn’t coming out of the starting gate with the same furious stride as Rothman, he will be tough to beat – even in Hudson County.
Around the county
Now that the sale of Hoboken University Medical Center is complete, and municipal elections are more than a year away, what do the always-bickering pols in Hoboken get to argue about?
Development, of course. With the Monarch Shipyard project on the horizon, the political battles have already started. Unfortunately, they may have started too soon, jumping on their anti-development bandwagon before the project got to the Planning Board for review, which could cause a legal problem. This, of course, won’t hurt those council members who are anti-Mayor Dawn Zimmer, because they can take the credit for passing an anti-development resolution and then saddle Zimmer with the heat when legal eagles come around saying the project was denied due process.
All this is posturing to kill time until the Board of Education elections come around in April. The pro and anti-Zimmer forces will use the results as tea leaves to predict the possible outcome to municipal elections more than a year away.
Secaucus is one of the places to look closely at this year, as the old guard on the school board slowly vanishes. Veteran school board trustee Tom Troyer is up for reelection, and while he feels confident he will retain his seat for another three years, recent history shows that new faces have been able to pull upsets and that Secaucus, like the rest of the world, is making room for the next generation.
Behind the scenes, control of the fractured Hudson County Democratic Organization will be hard-fought. Bad feelings remain from the battle over the state Assembly speakership in which Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne) defied the will of Sacco, and though the Bayonne contingent has come back on board in supporting the choices of North Bergen, it may be too late for Mayor Mark Smith to keep his position as chairman in spring.