HACKENSACK – As 2013 draws to a close, Democratic congressional candidate Roy Cho continues to aggressively raise funds for a 2014 race against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) while some key Democrats consider who to support.
Cho remains the only declared candidate to line up to take on Garrett, a six-term incumbent first elected in 2002 in a district where voters haven’t elected a Democrat since 1931.The Fifth Congressional District includes most of Warren and Sussex counties, a few Passaic municipalities, and parts of Bergen County. According to the October 2013 Federal Election Commission report, Garrett has more than $2.6 million on hand for his re-election fight.
Yet Cho, 32, of Hackensack, is raising significant funds with the help of some boldface-name backers. These supporters include Orin Kramer. Kramer, a hedge fund manager and New Jersey native, was a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign, bundling at least $500,000 in donations for the President. He also served as chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council from 2003 to 2011.
A merger and acquisitions attorney who works as an associate at the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis, Cho is also tapping into his workplace network. According to information provided by the Cho campaign, Eunu Chun, a Korean-American partner at Kirkland & Ellis who has raised significant funds for President Obama, recently sent a firm-wide letter of support for Cho. Chun’s cousin Jim Kim, the president of the World Bank and the former president of Dartmouth College, has also expressed support for Cho.
According to campaign sources, Cho has raised $190,000 to challenge Garrett, and expects to have well over $200,000 by the end of the quarter following a series of fundraising events this month.
State Sen. Bob Gordon (D-38), the tough campaigner who survived a strong challenge from Gov. Chris Christie-backed attorney Fernando Alonso, declared last week that he won’t run for Congress in 2014 against Garrett.
But for Bergen Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato, whose support is critical when considering the relatively sparse number of Democratic voters in the parts of Passaic, Warren and Sussex counties in the Fifth Congressional District, Gordon’s departure from the Congressional race does not definitely clear the field for Cho.
“I’m a proponent for an open convention,” Stellato told PolitickerNJ.com, pointing to the upcoming nomination vote in March. “If I was to say Roy Cho is the guy a year ago, it would have precluded any exploratory venture by Bob Gordon or whoever else might be out in the field. That’s not good for the party as a whole.
“Money is good, but that’s not the only thing. We need somebody who can also connect with the Fifth District, who has good name recognition, and a person who has a base so that they generate a degree of enthusiasm,” Stellato added. “I’m not saying that Mr. Cho can’t do that. But I need to keep an open mind, and I want to encourage as many people who want to take the plunge to come to the table. I think you’ll see some names out there in the next three weeks. We need someone who can give Garrett a run for his money – and he’s got a lot of money. And whoever that candidate is, we will back them one thousand percent.”