PARAMUS – Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera, a Democrat, expressed interest in running for the Fifth Congressional District seat in 2016, saying that he feels his record makes him a real candidate.
“I think I’m interested,” LaBarbiera, 48, a civil engineer, told PolitickerNJ on Wednesday. “I can’t remember the last time that this district has had an elected official run for that position, which I think is important. We’re in touch with what the needs of the people are, and we also have a tremendous amount of experience.”
LaBarbiera, who has been mayor of the Bergen County borough since 2011, pointed to a record that he believes can appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.
“We run Paramus like a business. We’re accountable to our taxpayers,” said LaBarbiera, who serves with a council evenly split 3-3 along party lines. “We’ve had five years of flat [municipal] taxes, with one reduction and we’re planning on a second reduction. We’ve expanded our tax base to $8 billion and growing, we have 50 interlocal [shared services] agreements, we’ve reduced our debt by ten to 20 percent and our bond rating has gone up. This should appeal to both sides of the aisle.”
LaBarbiera pointed to one aspect of Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett’s (R-5) record that he found less than appealing.
“[Garrett’s] record on Sandy is typical, showing he could be out of touch,” said LaBarbiera, a reference to a Garrett gaffe in a 2014 campaign flyer about the congressman’s actions after the 2012 hurricane. “The congressman’s record is not indicative of what I believe the Fifth District needs and demands.”
LaBarbiera is aware that he would be fighting an uphill battle against Garrett, a well-financed candidate now in his seventh term. Democrat Roy Cho ran a well-run, grass-roots campaign against Garrett in 2014 in which the Korean-born attorney raised $1.3 million in campaign funds by himself, but still went down in defeat as Garrett spent $2.2 million of his campaign war chest.
Josh Gottheimer, of Wyckoff, a business executive and former adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, is another notable Democrat reportedly interested in seeking the CD 5 seat in 2016. A recent trip to New Jersey by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton confidant, indicated that these powerful friends are waiting in the wings to help Gottheimer.
But LaBarbiera, stating that several local officials have encouraged him to run for Congress, thinks that name recognition and campaign funds could flow his way.
“I always tell my three boys, whether it be hockey or baseball, to make so much noise that you can’t be ignored. I think we’ve made a lot of noise in Paramus that is all positive and that can’t be ignored,” LaBarbiera said, pointing out that he has built his record in a town closely divided along partisan lines that is often seen at the bellwether town in the bellwether county of Bergen, one of four counties that has municipalities in CD 5. “You go out, work your ass off, and be better. I go back to my solid record, which would make the sale that much easier. I’m not talking in hypotheticals. This is what I’ve been doing, and it works. That could level the playing field in a lot of ways. I’m an engineer. We solve problems. We hope that once we start dipping our toe in the water [about a possible Congressional bid], it’s very welcoming and it pulls us in.”