Rep. Bill Pascrell prevailed over Rep. Steve Rothman on Tuesday in the New Jersey Democratic primary, one of the year’s most bitter incumbent-versus-incumbent contests, which served as a proxy battle between President Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Before the primary, the two eight-term House members were once close-knit allies in the New Jersey congressional delegation. But after the state lost a seat due to the once-a-decade redistricting process, Rothman faced the choice of running against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett, a Tea Party favorite, or moving into Pascrell’s redrawn, heavily Democratic district.
Rothman said he chose to run against Pascrell so that he could represent the same voters in his old district. The majority of the newly drawn district is from the one he currently represents.
But Rothman's decision brewed controversy. Democrats angered by a move they said now automatically reduced their numbers by one instead of challenging a prominent Republican. They also argued it complicated Democrats’ chances of retaking the House majority.
“Friends like this, I don’t need enemies,” Pascrell said earlier this year after Rothman announced he would run against him.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, both implored Rothman to face Garrett and promised him special help to do so.
Pascrell and Rothman also touted competing endorsements during the primary campaign.
Rothman, the only member of the New Jersey delegation to support President Obama during the 2008 presidential primary, featured campaign events with key Obama strategist David Axelrod. Rothman got an endorsement from the president during a visit to the White House last week.
Meanwhile, former President Clinton backed Pascrell, who endorsed now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2008. President Clinton appeared with Pascrell at a campaign rally in Patterson, N.J., over the weekend.
Rothman joins Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Jason Altmire, D-Pa., and Don Manzullo, R-Ill., as casualties of member-on-member primaries thanks to redistricting this year.
Pascrell will now face Republican Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the general election this fall.
Boteach authored the book "Kosher Sex" and was Michael Jackson's spiritual adviser.