Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sarlo and Schaer Lost Big on Tuesday

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sarlo and Schaer Lost Big on Tuesday

Article excerpt

THE MAGIC number is 36. For six months, it was nine. But now it is 36. Nine refers to the 9th District Democratic primary race that came to a resounding conclusion Tuesday. Two eight-term congressmen were pitted against each other. Steve Rothman moved from the 5th District to the newly drawn 9th District to challenge Bill Pascrell Jr.

Rothman was the Bergen County guy; Pascrell the Passaic County candidate. There are more registered Democrats in Bergen than in Passaic. Do the math. Rothman should win. Except more Passaic County voters showed up to vote on Tuesday. Pascrell did more than the math. He did all his homework. He won.

To the victor go the spoils; to the defeated, the spoilage. Rothman will quietly exit. Maybe there is another political chapter to write, but not soon. That brings me to the magic number: 36.

The 36th Legislative District spans two counties, Bergen and Passaic. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, is the state senator. Marlene Caride, D-Ridgefield, and Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, are the members of the Assembly.

I met Caride last year during the 2011 campaign. To be honest, I doubt I would recognize her if I bumped into her today. If she kept a lower profile, she would be a shadow. It's her first term. Her virtual anonymity may change with time.

But no strangers to the spotlight are Sarlo and Schaer. They also are part of a shrinking cadre of state legislators who hold more than one elected office simultaneously: Sarlo is mayor of Wood- Ridge, and Schaer is president of the Passaic City Council.

Both Sarlo and Schaer came out in a very large way for Rothman. Rothman lost. Do the math.

It isn't just that Sarlo's right-hand man Chris Eilert ran the Rothman campaign that matters now. And it isn't just that Schaer has never been very close to Pascrell and did not seem to have a problem with the issue of religion being thrown into the race for the 9th. It's more that these two movers and shakers, in the end, didn't move much.

The most interesting thing about the 9th District race is that it showed what would happen if two well-funded, like-minded candidates fought for the same seat. There are few competitive races in New Jersey.

Sarlo is well liked in Wood-Ridge, no doubt, but Wood-Ridge is not a very big place. You don't win a legislative district on just Wood-Ridge turnout. If Sarlo ever faced a serious primary challenge from a Democrat who lived in, say, Passaic, where Pascrell claimed 79. …

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