PARAMUS – So it begins.
Dealing a blow to the incumbent, Norwood Councilman Allen Rapaport this morning became the first Republican to defect from U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) and instead back Democrat Josh Gottheimer in the closely-watched CD5 race.
The movement conservative Garrett seeks reelection in the face of a well-funded and aggressive challenger.
He’ll have to try to get the job done without Rapaport.
“Bergen County Republicans – and I am one – are not Tea Partiers, which it seems Congressman Garrett has become,” said the councilman (pictured above at the podium this morning with the Democratic candidate, second from right), who is also the local police commissioner.
The Bergen County-dominant 5th District leans Republican. Over the past years, Garrett’s gobbled up many a determined challenger. But Gottheimer – who has close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton going back to when he was a presidential speechwriter – aims to show that the congressman should give even the GOP pause.
A story about Garrett last year in Politico caused a wave of backlash against the veteran congressman, which Democrats quickly seized on as evidence of the Wantage Republican’s extremist views. Garrett – who has since quibbled with the story – told GOP leadership that he didn’t like to pay party committee dues because some of the money might go to fund the campaigns of gay candidates.
Bedlam ensued, and now Gottheimer – also alert to Garrett’s rejection of federal hurricane relief funds – hopes to capitalize.
At the outset of a campaign contest that must first get through the primary season, Rapaport today aided the challenger in building a bipartisan case against Garrett. Arguing that Garrett’s tax policies hurt first responders, Rapaport said he intends to vote for Gottheimer in November. A 33-year resident of Norwood, the councilman is serving his third term on the local governing body.