The developing Democratic Primary among state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), Plainsboro, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15), Ewing, and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) continues to reveal numerous curious dynamics, starting with political insiders’ eagerness to compare the contest to another Democratic Primary of recent vintage…
…Because the comparisons to CD9 are unavoidable
The combatants are not incumbent congress people, so right away that makes the contest very different from the 2012 conflagration that featured U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) versus U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9). But in some significant ways the races are similar.
It starts with style.
Greenstein has a reputation as a blue collar campaigner who, if it means finding a vote, will all but go belly down and crawl under the hood of a car to shake the hand of an on-duty mechanic. Her style draws obvious comparisons to Pascrell, who learned his trade in one of the state’s true bastions of retail politics: Paterson. Greenstein is the suburban version of Pascrell, and that’s an acknowledgement made by sources in Paterson.
The comparison gets tricky, though, when one considers the specific political performance of the suburbs and whether Greenstein’s base will perform in a Democratic Primary the way Pascrell’s did, where his enormous plurality out of Paterson swamped Rothman.
As a legislator serving Trenton and with the endorsement of the mayor of Plainfield, Watson Coleman technically has the Pascrell urban base, and may summon the same kind of voter passion for her cause.
Sources say Watson Coleman allies have already reached out to Pascrell world for an endorsement.
But in terms of early messaging, Watson Coleman is playing the role of Rothman.
Days after U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) announced his retirement, she attacked Greenstein and attempted to brand her as the less than progressive competitor in the contest. That echoes Rothman’s out-of-the-gate attempt to show how Pascrell was less than stout in his advocacy of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Rothman also aggressively jabbed at Pascrell’s environmental record, again trying to position himself as the lone true progressive in the race.
Pascrell returned fire by making the Tea Party, not Rothman, the object.
At a meeting of the East Brunswick Democratic Committee earlier this week, while Watson Coleman railed against “mealy-mouthed Democrats,” Greenstein called out the Tea Party and extremism in Washington.
There is no Jewish member of NJ’s federal delegation right now
New Jersey has had at least one Jewish member of Congress going back to 1982, when Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) took the oath of office as U.S. Senator. When Mr. Lautenberg first retired in 2000, Rothman was still in office as the then-9th District Congressman. As recently as 2010, the NJ Delegation had three Jews in office: Mr. Lautenberg, Rothman, and the late U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-3).
Now there are none.
If you can’t get Chivukula on the phone, here’s why…
…He’ll be fundraising. The 17th District Assemblyman has a reputation as an omnivorous campaigner. Every time Greenstein pulls into a parking lot, she can expect to see Chivukula in the rear view mirror – or already embracing the same voters the senator seeks. But when he’s not physically visible on the trail, he’ll be working the phones and soon appearing on a television set near you.
PolitickerNJ asked the assemblyman earlier this week what his plans were for the campaign and he said he was already mounting a full-scale fundraising assault – annoying to those Middlesex allies of Greenstein’s who want the county on lockdown for the Plainsboro pol.
Sweeney will back Greenstein, while Fulop…
…Won’t personally back Watson Coleman, or so it appears. Remember, Watson Coleman backed Fulop’s rival Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy last year. Few remember the former Democratic Chair charging into the Jersey City mayor’s race on behalf of Healy, demanding that Fulop return Republican campaign donations, but it’s likely Fulop remembers.