Pascrell and Rothman seek to distinguish themselves ahead of June 5 primary

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May 31, 2012

   

TRENTON, New Jersey: As New Jersey's June 5 primary approaches, Democratic incumbents Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman are seeking to differentiate themselves as they battle for the 9th District seat. Redistricting eliminated one of New Jersey's congressional seats, throwing the two colleagues into the same district for 2012.

Although the representatives' voting records are nearly identical,[1] each competitor has tried to distinguish himself. In a debate earlier this month, the two highlighted their liberal votes to appeal to their strongly Democratic district.[2] Pascrell has taken the more pragmatic Democratic stance, while Rothman is seeking to portray himself as more progressive.[1] Rothman has pointed out his early support of Obama, along with decrying Pascrell's support of a ban on late-term abortions.[1] Rothman has also been called out for running an ad that incorrectly implied that Pascrell supported tax cuts for the wealthy.[1]

Financially, the two candidates are also fairly even. Pascrell had outraised and outspent Rothman as of the middle of May, but Rothman has significantly more cash on hand.[3]

In opting to face Pascrell, Rothman gave up significant support from the Democratic Party establishment. When redistricting split Rothman's territory between Pascrell's (now labeled the 9th District) and Scott Garrett's Republican-leaning 5th. Instead of taking one for the team and fighting an uphill battle in a politically unfriendly district, Rothman chose to take on his friend and colleague Pascrell. In doing so, he has drawn some resentment from within the party[1] -- and from Pascrell.[4]

Former president Bill Clinton has endorsed Pascrell.[5] While endorsements don't often make much difference, political analysts say that in such a tight race, such a big-name Democrat's support could have an impact.[1]

Many local synagogues have urged members to register Democratic in order to vote for Rothman, who is seen as being more pro-Israel than Pascrell. This may have contributed to the rush of hundreds of Republicans or unaffiliated voters who have registered to vote in the Democratic primary.[2] These voters, at least, apparently have strong preferences between the two similar candidates.

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