PATERSON – Standing in front of the Silk City house he bought for $19,000, where he and his wife, Elsie, raised their children, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) launched his re-election bid today in scrappy, homespun style.
The modest brick house symbolized Pascrell’s rootedness, a point of contrast with his rival, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), whom redistricting sent sprawling out of Fair Lawn and back to Englewood.
Coming through the swinging screen door, Pascrell planted both feet behind a podium.
“Someone told me, ‘You don’t want to live here, this neighborhood is changing,'” the Paterson-born congressman told the crowd gathered in the blocked-off street. “I know what they meant and you know what they meant, and I said, ‘I know it’s changing. That’s why I want to live here.'”
The audience, including Sheriff Richard Berdnik, Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie, Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-34), and many others, responded enthusiastically throughout the front-lawn speech.
Pascrell faces the prospect of an increasingly ugly contest with Rothman, whose Bergen portion of the new congressional district boasts bigger raw numbers than Pascrell’s Passaic piece.
The congressman got in his digs on his rival.
“This has never been about climbing up the political ladder,” he shouted, a reference to the ever-present back story about Rothman’s desire to be a U.S. Senator.
Pascrell then tried to dent Rothman with the suggestion, again, on the heels of ads he ran depicting Rothman running from a general election battle with U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5), as fearful in the face of a real fight.
“In 1996, I ran for congress against one of Newt Gingrich’s lieutenants against their Contract On America,” said Pascrell, the implcation being that Rothman should have squared up against Garrett in stead of changing addresses to guard that section of his district excised during redistricting.
“America’s middle class is under the gun from the Tea Party in Washington,” Pascrell thundered. “I fight every day to protect programs like Social Security and Medicare from the radical right.”
He needed 200 petitions today and he indicated a stack of 10,332.
“We’re in it to win it,” he said. “The contrast could not be more stark. We do not need more armchair quarterbacks in Washington on the couch with the clicker. You won’t find me on the sideline. You’ll find me on the frontline.
“I don’t start fights,” Pascrell added, “but I know how to end a fight.”
Across the river in Bergen, Rothman spokesman Paul Swibinski said the congressman doesn’t plan a big petition filing kickoff. He’s filed nine times int he 9th and the team doesn’t see the need for any hoopla this time.
As for Pascrell’s oblique couch potato charge, Swibinski said, “When it comes to Democratic Party values, Steve Rothman is the real fighter. Bill Pascrell was missing in action when it came to securing the individual mandate and the president’s healthcare reform. He has voted twice to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and he caved to the hysteria of the right wing when he voted in favor of a border fence. When the far right was attacking embryonic stem cell research, he refused he voted.”