By David Cruz
The hotly contested primary between Democrats Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman takes center stage tonight when the two square off in a live debate tonight on NJTV.
Given their druthers, many Democrats probably would rather this primary race not be taking place. The census and resulting reapportionment cost New Jersey a congressional seat this year and forced incumbents Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell to fight it out over the reconfigured ninth congressional district.
Pascrell, the former mayor of Paterson, has accused Rothman, the former mayor of Englewood, with political cowardice and party disloyalty for not taking on fifth district Congressman Scott Garrett.
“We come into doing politics, hopefully, with some standards, and I know Steve has standards and I think he’s a good person, but you don’t have any vacation from that. This is vacation time? You need recess?” chided Pascrell. “You can rationalize what you’re doing to a so-called friend. It’s more important than me. It’s important to the party. The party wanted him to run.”
And the rhetoric hasn’t gotten much friendlier as the race has worn on.
“Bill even led an immigration raid on a sewing factory in Passaic when he was a sitting Congressman that resulted in 40 Mexican, Dominican and Polish women being led out of that Passaic sewing factory in handcuffs on a raid where Bill tipped off the INS and participated in that INS raid against immigrants,” charged Rothman at a recent debate.
Rothman says he’s the state’s Progressive Champion, painting Pascrell as someone just this side of a Tea Party Republican.
“Bill voted to put a fence along the border with Mexico, Bill voted to put restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, Bill voted for the bank bailout and Bill voted to remove the public option from the Affordable Healthcare Act,” he said. “Now, I voted against the bank bailout, against the fence, always, 100 percent for a woman’s right to choose, and I voted to keep in the public option.”
Pascrell has secured endorsements from most of the Passaic County Democrats and party luminaries like Bill Clinton. Rothman has gotten the support of Bergen and Hudson County Democrats. Democrats are hoping that the inter-party battle leaves no permanent scars, but it’s been a tough campaign already. Both have been chided by PolitiFact for claims they have made about one another.
It’s safe to assume that tonight’s debate will be lively as two men who say they’re still friends battle for their political futures. This is the most closely-watched contest in the state, by far, and we’ll have the two combatants, live, tonight at 8 p.m.