There is some talk in Bergen County that Republicans want to recruit a credible challenger to run against seven-term U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) next year. GOP leaders don't believe they can beat Rothman, but they think a stronger-than-usual candidate helps them win the big prize of 2010: County Executive and control of the Board of Freeholders. Congressional candidates are at the top of the ticket in the next General Election. For the same reason, Democrats might want a serious candidate to challenge U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage), even though they understand that Garrett is likely to win a fifth term anyway.
Here's a short list of candidates the GOP might ask to do them a favor and run against Rothman: Richard Mola, the mayor of Elmwood Park since 1970 and a Bergen County Freeholder for 22 years; Steven Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota who sought the GOP nomination for governor in 2005 and 2009; Rose Heck, the mayor of Hasbrouck Heights who served as an Assemblywoman from 1990 to 2004; and Kathleen Donovan, the Bergen County Clerk since 1988 and a former Assemblywoman and GOP State Chair. If Republicans don't pick her to run for County Executive, maybe she'll take one for the team and run against Rothman, who hasn't been held to under 60% of the vote since Donovan ran against him in 1996.
Some possible Democratic candidates to run against Garrett: Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Paramus), a former Paramus Councilwoman and Bergen County Freeholder who was re-elected this year by 5,500 votes; soon-to-be former Freeholder Julie O'Brien, who lost re-election by less than 1% last month, if Democrats don't run her again next year; Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, who will be out of a job in 2012 anyway; and Bergen County Executive Dennis C. McNerney, who could use a race for Congress as a graceful exit strategy if Democrats want don't back him for re-election to a third term.
In 2008, Rothman beat Iraq war veteran Steve Micco 68%-31, and Garrett won a 56%-42% win over blind Rabbi Dennis Shulman.