The race for the ninth congressional district is in full swing between Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell and Republican Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Boteach told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he is not running a negative campaign, as Pascrell has alleged, and said Pascrell has avoided meeting with him. Boteach also believes Pascrell has been in public office for too long and should return to private life.
Boteach said during the process of running for office, he’s questioned the fairness of the election process. “What I’ve learned most is that the United States doesn’t really have a democracy because gerrymandering means that in a district like ours people naturally assume that with a democratic structure Pascrell has this advantage,” he said.
He criticized Pascrell for not campaigning much, which he said should bother voters “because they’re the ones that deserve a clear choice and it shouldn’t just be based on whether there’s a D or an R before someone’s name. It should be about people’s vision and everyone should have to earn people’s votes.”
Boteach said he works hard to show people that he values them and their votes, even visiting communities that likely will vote for a Democratic candidate.
Pascrell has accused Boteach of running a negative campaign. Boteach said he has invited Pascrell to his home and he hasn’t come. He used a marriage analogy — that couples in the most trouble are those who ignore each other and don’t fight — to show that Pascrell’s silence is breeding negativity.
Boteach said Pascrell has a lot to answer for, including his initial support of renaming a portion of a Clifton park after Chester Grabowski, publisher of The Post Eagle Polish-American newspaper, who some say was an anti-Semite. Pascrell said he was unaware of the allegations and withdrew support after learning about them.
But Boteach said he should have known. “I mean this is a guy that ran in 1990 for Congress in David Duke’s party when Congressman Pascrell was mayor of Paterson,” Boteach said. “He had to have known this stuff.” He added that he was willing to give Pascrell the benefit of the doubt, however, and that the media wasn’t.
Boteach said it’s time for Pascrell to leave public office. “He’s been in public life for so many years it’s hard not to be out of touch. I don’t think we were ever supposed to have politicians for life in the United States. He’s going for his 18th year in Congress and then he was a mayor before that. You’re talking about someone who’s been in public life a bit too long,” he said. “I think that the founding fathers had a vision of the citizen politician who sort of went into public life for a couple years but really came back to being a private citizen.”
He said he is prepared to engage Pascrell and has tried but hasn’t been successful. “He’s taking a classic approach of the incumbent which is let’s just pretend the guy doesn’t even exist. That’s contempt for democracy,” Boteach said. “He’s not being negative towards me, he’s being negative towards the constituents.”
Boteach said his advertising campaign asking “Where’s Bill?” has been successful, with the Associated Press writing a story about it that has been syndicated to newspapers across the country.