By Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent
In his first one-on-one broadcast interview since announcing he would challenge fellow Democrat Bill Pascrell in the June primary, Congressman Steve Rothman defended his decision to run in the new 9th district instead of the new 5th and said the advantages are on his side.
He noted that 28 of the towns in the new district are currently represented by him, whereas only five towns are represented by Pascrell (albeit large ones like Paterson and Passaic).
Two towns in the new 9th come from Republican Scott Garrett’s current 5th district. The choice between Rothman and Pascrell will be made by voters in the June primary, and Rothman noted that 61 percent of registered Democrats in the new district are currently his constituents, compared with only 39 percent for Pascrell.
Rothman said he was born and raised in what will be the new 9th, even though he has to move his residence from Fair Lawn back to Englewood in order to stay within its boundaries. His roots in the district are deep, he said.
Asked about the notion that he is betraying an old friend and letting down the Democratic Party by challenging Pascrell instead of running against the rightward-leaning Garrett, Rothman suggested that Pascrell could just as easily have moved into the new 5th.
He said his last conversation with Pascrell in late December ended with the words “I love you, Billy,” and “I love you, Steve.”
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After the interview was completed at mid-day Thursday, the Rothman team announced a new endorsement, the Service Employees International Union, with 40,000 New Jersey members. SEIU is one of the more politically active unions in the state and the country.
Not to be outdone, the Pascrell campaign late this afternoon announced endorsements from Passaic County Central Labor Council and the North Jersey local of the American Post Workers Union.