Rep. Steven Rothman will challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell in a primary, the messy consequences of New Jersey redistricting and the loss of one House seat.
Rothman announced the move today, noting he was born and raised in the 9th district.
The Star Ledger first reported that Rothman "began telling Democrats" in June that he would run against Pascrell in a Member-vs.-Member primary for the newly drawn 9th district. The decision comes a few days after Rothman was drawn into the same district as Republican Rep. Scott Garrett and indications were that the two Members would compete there. The new 9th could be an easier race for Rothman, who already represents some of the counties within its boundaries.
“I have represented the 9th Congressional District for the past 15 years and have lived here nearly my entire life. I look forward to continuing to represent this district,” Rothman said in a statement, which was accompanied by a long list of local endorsements.
Rothman's campaign noted that he represents nearly 55 percent of the people living within the new 9th district boundaries. He represents 61 percent of the registered Democrats in the new territory.
Pascrell issued a statement on his colleague's primary challenge, saying he is "already out there" working for the 9th district.
"I have received a tremendous response from the people of Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties,” Pascrell said. “Everyone who knows me knows that I am a fighter who is ready for whatever may come. I will be as relentless in the election as I have been for my constituents. I do not know the meaning of the word quit."
The Star Ledger quoted Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, a Pascrell supporter, as saying Rothman “would be letting down New Jersey Democrats by running outside of his hometown and passing up an opportunity to unseat right-wing radical Scott Garrett.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee is gloating about Rothman’s decision.
The state’s bipartisan redistricting commission, made up of six Democrats, six Republicans and one Independent, voted 7-6 on Friday for the Republican plan. Down to 12 districts, the new map favors Democrats and Republicans in six seats each.
Rothman is in his eighth term and serves on the Appropriations Committee. The Democrat hasn’t won with less than 60 percent of the vote since first being elected to represent his Hackensack-based 9th district in 1996.
Pascrell, also elected in 1996 and serving his eighth term, serves on the Budget and Ways and Means committees.
An unaligned Democrat familiar with New Jersey politics predicted Pascrell would be able to attract robust support from labor unions. The Democrat noted Pascrell is a tough campaigner and assigned him a slight early edge over Rothman.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.