Rep. Bill Pascrell handily defeated fellow Democratic incumbent Rep. Steve Rothman in New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District primary Tuesday night, paving the way for him to continue his 15-year career in the House. The two lawmakers, both elected in 1996, were forced into the same seat by redistricting.
The race was billed as a throwback to the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. Pascrell received an endorsement from Bill Clinton, who attended a rally on Pascrell’s behalf in Paterson, N.J. Like most New Jersey and New York Democratic officials, he supported Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. One exception that year: Rothman, who supported President Obama. The president paid back the favor, inviting Rothman to the White House for a prominent photo-op this week, although he did not issue a statement endorsing his campaign.
In another echo of the 2008 presidential race, things got ugly as the contest went down to the wire. Rothman complained about ballot irregularities among absentee votes and tried to get them impounded, prompting a judge to step in and order they be counted. Pascrell called the incident “the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen in politics” and “worse than Jim Crow.”
Pascrell is expected to cruise to re-election in the heavily Democratic district, but will face an extremely colorful Republican opponent in Shmuley Boteach, a celebrity rabbi who has served alternately as a spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson and an authority on Judaic sex.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.