Pascrell slow to wrangle Passaic bases

TRENTON – While more than 60 Democratic politicos from Bergen and Hudson counties lent their support to U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) in the hours following his intraparty challenge announcement on Monday, Rothman’s opponent hasn’t been able to line up his backers with the same gusto.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) is lagging behind Rothman early in the endorsement column, but his supporters don’t want to make too much about it.

Pascrell’s foremost champion, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, told PolitickerNJ, “I think it’s more of a deliberative process (in Passaic County).”

Currie expects a list of Pascrell endorsements to be released next week. Already on board are the municipal chairs of all six Passaic County towns in the new 9th District, he said: Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Passaic, Paterson, and Prospect Park.

Municipal chairs in the heart of the district exert more influence over primary voters, some sources agreed, compared to higher-ranking officials on the fringe, like Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who endorsed Rothman this week.

But major players in Passaic will still be important, like Paterson Mayor Jeff Jones; Passaic Mayor Dr. Alex Blanco; and state Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-36), of Passaic.

Schaer, also a Passaic councilman, said his town will be a centerpiece of the newly drawn Democrat-heavy 9th District, which is why he’s in no rush to back a candidate. Even so, he expects a decision to be made in the near term.

“Discussions with all parties concerned are continuing,” Schaer told PolitickerNJ.

Blanco was not immediately available for comment, but a Democratic source in Passaic said the mayor hasn’t committed to Pascrell or Rothman yet.

Jones, who is under his own political pressure in Paterson, is also taking his time to weigh the decision.

“There’s a community conversation that’s going to be had,” he said. “I have to check my ego at the door…It has to be about what the city wants.”

Home to more than 146,000 New Jerseyans, most of whom are Democrats, Paterson is a critical base in the new Congressional district.

“Historically, whenever the city of Paterson comes out,” Jones said, “things happen.”

While he is taking input from all sides, Jones expects a decision to be made in the “immediate” future.

A source close to Pascrell said the challenger, Rothman, is expected to be on the offensive out of the gates since it was Rothman who initiated the fight. Regarding Rothman’s quickly compiled endorsement list, the source said, “He has vested interest to wave that banner.”

Some of the numbers coming out of the northern encampments seem to favor Rothman.

As PolitickerNJ  reported last week, 61 percent of the Democrats in the new 9th District are currently represented by Rothman.

Pascrell will need to reach into Bergen and Hudson in order to win as those towns make up the majority of the voters in the district.

In the 2008 Senate primary between U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, Bergen and Hudson Democrats in the new district turned out 16,148 voters (67 percent) compared to 8,106 from Passaic (33 percent).

In the 2008 Presidential Democratic primary, Bergen and Hudson turned out 50,724 voters combined (56 percent) versus 39,763 voters in Passaic (44 percent). Pascrell slow to wrangle Passaic bases