Commentary Magazine


Topic: Steve Rothman Bill Pascrell

Israel Loses a Friend in New Jersey

New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman, one of the staunchest pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, lost his seat Tuesday night in a primary race against Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (the two members of Congress were pitted against each other due to redistricting):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) crushed Rep. Steve Rothman (D) in a member-vs.-member primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, ending his longtime friend’s 8-term run in the House.

The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell. …

Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides.

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New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman, one of the staunchest pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, lost his seat Tuesday night in a primary race against Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (the two members of Congress were pitted against each other due to redistricting):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) crushed Rep. Steve Rothman (D) in a member-vs.-member primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, ending his longtime friend’s 8-term run in the House.

The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell. …

Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides.

There’s likely to be some debate about what the race means in the bigger picture. President Obama publicly backed Rothman (which makes the president 0-2 Tuesday night), while Bill Clinton sided with Pascrell, suggesting that Obama’s support may not carry as much weight as it once did in the heavily-Democratic district. Beyond that, both members tried to run as the true liberal in the race, and their policy positions are very similar.

Still, Rothman has been one of the key Democratic Israel supporters in Congress, using his position on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to back defense cooperation programs like Iron Dome and consistently speaking out in support of the Jewish state. He will no doubt be missed by pro-Israel Democrats.

While Pascrell came under fire during the election for some of his anti-Israel associations and his prior support for the Gaza 54 letter, his congressional voting record on Israel has been very similar to Rothman’s.

“Pascrell’s voting record was with AIPAC basically all the time,” a Democratic strategist told me after the race, but added that “Rothman was a standout leader on these issues.”

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