One of the more aggressive critics of Gov.-elect Chris Christieearly inthe campaign, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) today said he plans to reach out to Christie and establish working relations with him for the sake of New Jersey.
"Iwish Chris Christie well," said Pascrell. "It's going to be atough four years overcoming the last eight years of national inaction."
The former mayor of Paterson and veteran 8th District congressman last year musedon a potential bid forthe governship in the event that Corzine did not seek re-election.
Asked if he intends to run for governor in 2013, Pascrell said, "No, it's too early to talk about that now."
Pascrell said he has not talked to defeated Gov. Jon Corzine since the governor's loss to Christie on Tuesday.
"The governor was unable to overcome some unfavorable perceptions many voters had of him," said the congressman."Most of the Democrats running for (the legislature) didn't run with the governor, andI think it's clear he was also unable to overcome that. He was not able to articulate what he accomplished. This governor accomplished a lot of things. Thestate budget is the same as it was four years ago. He was trying to do his part with the caps."
While praising the governor's term in office, Pascrell bashed Corzine's ad campaign.
"I asked 25 people I knew if they knew Jon Corzine was in the Marine Corps, and no one knew he was a Marine," said Pascrell, arguing that a positve televison ad the campaignaired in theclosing days of the contest was too late."If you're running for governor or mayor or senator, that would be one of first things you say about yourself. How come the campaign took so damn long to get out those personal attributes? That should have been a highlight of the campaign.
"But thevotershave spoken," he added, "andI congratulate Mr. Christie."
Pascrell's chief longtime problem with Christie was the former U.S. Attorney's appointment ofChristie's former boss, Attorney GeneralJohn Ashcroft, to oversee the deferred prosecution agreement (DPAs)of Zimmer Holdings – a no bid contract potentially worth $52million.
The congressman insisted his real beef all alongwas with the process itself, by whichcorporations that break the law and, in the case of Zimmer Holdings, abuse the elderly, are allowed to enter into DPAs, the equivalent of softly pedaled punishment for the very powerful.
"Idon't think it was a personal criticism of Christie, it was acriticism ofthe DPAmess – a total disaster, andAIG is the poster boy for it," said Pascrell.
Although Corzine pulled out a hardly intimidating 51-44% win in Pascrell's home county of Passaic andthe county clerk and freeholder candidates lost (albeit by a very narrow margin), the congressman said he does not agree with the premise that Democrats are weak in the suburbs or that there is a fundamental Jersey political divide between cities and suburbs.
"The only reason Democrats came back in the 1990s is because many of the legislators are no longer from the cities," he said. "Property taxes are hurting everyone. These ismore inclusion in our party (that at any time), and I don't think that if you're in the suburbs you feelleft out of the Democratic Party. We've passed that hurdle, and it'stime for us to come together and look to the future."
Pascrell gave the interview by phone from the U.S. Capitol Building as he preparedto participate inanother round of votes. On Saturday, he anticipates being part of the majority that passes a healthcare reform bill, which includes a public option.
"I'm sure they willtry to reflect this (Corzine's loss) onObama – that that's why we lost some independents in this election Tuesday in New Jersey," said Pascrell. "ButCongressman Owens beat back the universe in 23 Tuesday night in upstate New York, and you had all the talk show characters and people fromFox News in there, and he stillwon for four percentage points.You know what hismajor issue was in that campaign? Healthcare. And that's a seat where they didn't elect a Democrat in 100 years. Tuesday night was a mixed bag."