ENGLEWOOD – U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, (D-9), embraced former Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes this morning at a formal press conference, ending the unstated but unmistakable dream of those forces belonging to U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell, (D-9), who wanted a hungry Wildes in the contest to split the Bergen vote.
Wildes and Rothman were never chummy.
Rothman was mayor here once, serving prior to Wildes taking office. When he went to Congress, he had to worry about Wildes occassionally making public statements about wanting to fulfill a lifelong dream about serving in the U.S. Capitol.
It made for somewhat antsy relations between the two Bergen County Democrats and cracks whenever the two of them occupied a room about Wildes serving as the 9th District’s shadow congressman. If then-Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joe Ferriero became upset with Rothman for whatever reason, Wildes’ name started circulating.
They never said anything on the record but Pascrell’s people figurered if Wildes ever had a sudden accelerated rush of feverish ambition, no time would be better than the present.
Never known to shy away from the cameras, Wildes nursed the notion that he might get in the race, even going so far as to tell PolitickerNJ.com that Pascrell, not Rothman, would be the last-place finisher in a three-way.
But today he publicly endorsed Rothman outside Rothman’s downtown campaign headquarters in the town where they both served as mayor.
“I appreciate his willingness to put aside his dream to serve,” Bergen County Democratic Committee Chairman Lou Stellato told the small assembled sidewalk crowd of operatives in sunglasses and earpieces. “Michael Wildes will make an excellent candidate for the Bergen County Democratic Committee in a future race.”
Considerable fundraising skills. Smart. Capable. Distinguished immigration attorney.
Wildes stepped up to the podium on a setpiece plastered over with smiling Rothman signs in sunshine.
“Congressman Rothman,” he said, “it is a pleasure to stand here today to make sure you are going to be elected again to your ninth term.
“You’d be splitting hairs to find differences between Steve and Mr. Pascrell,” Wildes added. “The difference is in terms of temperament and character. …Mr. Pascrell makes a good case for partisanship, but Steve is a bridge-builder.”
He handed the platform off to Rothman.
“This is a wonderful day for the people of the 9th Congressional District,” said the congressman.
“I am grateful to have the support of Michael Wildes, he was a dedicated and caring public servant who exemplifies the leadership we need in government. Someday Michael will make an outstanding congressman,” he added. “He served for two terms as the Mayor of my hometown of Englewood and during that period proved to be a tenacious campaigner. I am excited that he will be working as part of our campaign.”
The men said they never harbored any rancor for each other.
“Political, not personal,” said Wildes.
For his part, Pascrell told PolitickerNJ.com he had no opinion about whether Wildes was in or out of the contest.
“I am not going to be distracted by anything,” Rothman’s rival said at an event at the Brownstone on Monday night.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Republican nominee for the 9th District Congressional seat, did consider Wildes’ podium presence worth his attention.
“Michael Wildes was my partner throughout the summer of 2009 as we worked to prevent Kaddafi from coming to Englewood,” said the Republican challenger. “He’s a tireless public servant who would have been an outstanding candidate and the people of NJ’s 9th district are poorer for his declining to run. I do wish that prior to having endorsed Congressman Rothman, Michael would have extracted from him a pledge to publicly break with Obama, as did Senator Schumer, should the President return to pressuring Israel for dangerous concessions. I likewise question whether what the people of our district need is, as Michael put it in his statement endorsing Rothman, a Congressman running for a ninth term when fresh blood and ideas are essential to Congress fixing the problems of the American people.”