It appears that the “Arab” candidate in the Democratic primary for the New Jersey 9th congressional district has won. Congressman Steve Rothman, a victim of the downsizing of New Jersey’s delegation following the 2010 census, was handed a defeat by fellow Democrat, Congressman Bill Pascrell, ending his more than a quarter-century career in elected office.
“I hope to be of service to my community and my country,” Rothman told his dejected supporters Tuesday night. “I don’t believe I’ll be running for political office ever again.”
Shortly after Rothman’s concession speech, the 75-year-old Pascrell came out to greet his hundreds of jubilant supporters at the Passaic County Community College gymnasium, with the tune of the theme from “Rocky” adding a final boxing match metaphor to a primary campaign that resembled warfare more than an election.
Parcell’s staff actually refer to themselves as “fighters.” And Parcell sounded like a war-weary general last night when he said, pumping both fists in the air: “As a lifelong Patersonian, my parents always told me not to start fights but to know how to finish them. Tonight, we did just that.”
On Monday, an Arabic campaign poster supporting Pascrell urged the “Arab diaspora community” to “elect the friend of the Arabs” and billed the race as the most important election in the history of the Arab community (See “Arabs Attacking Jews in NJ Primary” for detailed coverage of the Rothman vs. Parcell fight).
The same pro-Parcell poster called on New Jersey residents to “Vote for a true Arab.”
In the other corner, ready to face the “True Arab,” is self-proclaimed “America’s Rabbi,” Shmuely Boteach, who topped two opponents to become the Republican candidate in the new 9th Congressional District, declaring that he would begin his campaign by meeting Wednesday with officials in Israel to talk about human rights abuses by the Syrian government.
Take that, True Arab…
Rabbi Boteach was leading with 57 percent of the vote, with 90 percent of precincts counted by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. He defeated Hector Castillo, a semi-retired doctor from Paterson, who had 30 percent of the vote, and Blase Billack, a pharmaceutical science professor from Saddle Brook who had 13 percent of the vote.
Boteach tweeted his followers (all-caps in the original): “BERGEN RECORD JUST CALLED ME AND TOLD ME THANK G-D I WON THE PRIMARY. I AM HUMBLED AND GRATEFUL TO G-D ALMIGHTY AND ALL OF YOU!!!”
A few moments later, having released his caps-lock, the winning Republican tweeted: “I also called Hector Castillo and Blase Billack to thank them for a spirited campaign and wish them every blessing for the future.”
The New NJ-9 is a largely Democratic district, but the grueling primary campaign between two Democrats whose ethnic affiliations, real or imagined (Rep. Bill Parcell Jr. is the grandson of Italian immigrants), have introduced Jewish-Arab tensions into the race.
As a result, Republican Boteach might benefit from Jewish voters’ anxiety about the local forces behind his Democratic rival’s campaign and either stay home or vote Republican.
Check this space for updates…