TRENTON - A North Jersey congressman who was thrown into an alien district when congressional maps were redrawn last week will challenge another Democratic incumbent in the primary.
U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman said Monday that he would run against Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who now represents the Eighth Congressional District, in June. Pascrell's district will be part of the Ninth on the new congressional map.
"I have represented the Ninth Congressional District for the past 15 years and have lived here nearly my entire life. I look forward to continuing to represent this district," Rothman said in a statement. "We have more work to do together, and I look forward to continuing to work for the people of Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties and earning each of their votes on Election Day."
The 59-year-old Rothman, who lives in Fair Lawn, had been thrown into a newly configured Republican-leaning Fifth District, covering the northern part of the state, with Republican Scott Garrett.
Rather than square off against one of the most conservative members of Congress, Rothman, a liberal, decided to run against Pascrell, 74, for their party's nomination in his newly configured district, which is largely Democratic. Rothman does not have to live in the district to represent it.
Several towns that Rothman now represents, including part of Teaneck and all of Englewood, were put into the district Pascrell represents. Pascrell said he looked forward to representing the new district. He also has been in Congress for 15 years.
"Everyone who knows me knows that I am a fighter who is ready for whatever may come. I will be as relentless in the election as I have been for my constituents. I do not know the meaning of the word quit," Pascrell said.
The New Jersey congressional delegation is currently 7-6 majority Democrat, but the state is losing a seat because of population shifts. Rothman's decision solidifies the likelihood that the delegation will be split, with six Democrats and six Republicans after the November elections.
John Farmer Jr., dean of Rutgers Law School and former attorney general under Republican Gov. Christie Whitman, chose a congressional map favored by Republicans last week as the tiebreaking member of the redistricting panel.
Rothman will not have to move from Fair Lawn to challenge Pascrell, but he could move to Englewood, where he was once mayor. Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato said Rothman was supported by nearly all 29 towns in Bergen and Hudson Counties in the Ninth District.