A North Jersey congressman whose district has been carved up because the state is losing a seat in the House said Democrats in Washington won't help fund his intra-party primary fight against another incumbent Democrat.
Rep. Steve Rothman told The Associated Press Thursday that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will sit out the campaign between him and Rep. Bill Pascrell.
Rothman, the biggest loser in a process that resulted in new congressional districts for 2013, said he decided to challenge Pascrell after the rejiggered map split up his district. He said he briefly considered retiring after 15 years in Congress, but never seriously weighed running against Republican Scott Garrett in the state's northernmost district, as Democrats hoped he would.
"I'm seeking to continue to represent the 9th Congressional District where I was born, raised and lived practically my whole life," he told the AP.
Rothman said he was never offered an unconditional guarantee of $1 million or more from the DCCC if he agreed to run against Garrett rather than Pascrell.
"Even if they said they would put $5 million in escrow in my campaign bank account, I'm not going to run in this 5th Congressional District," he said in his first extended public comments since the new map was announced late last month.
Pascrell, 74, who has also been in Congress 15 years, is not backing down from the challenge. He has hired a campaign staff and announced endorsements from about two dozen labor organizations. Rothman has endorsements from political leaders in Bergen and Hudson counties, while those in Passaic County have lined up behind Pascrell.
Each man had at least $1.4 million in campaign cash at the end of the most recent federal reporting period in October.
Rothman, who lives in Fair Lawn, said he may move "a mile or two" to a town in the reconfigured 9th District, though he wouldn't be required to do so. The district includes 35 municipalities in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties, 30 of which Rothman says he has represented at one point or another in his public service career.
In contrast, Garrett's new district contains about 80 percent of the towns he represents now. Rothman said a victory there would be unlikely for someone with his liberal voting record even with President Obama at the top of the ticket. Garrett is one of the most conservative members of Congress.
The districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes recorded in the census. New Jersey is losing one of 13 House seats because the state didn't grow as quickly as some others. New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are also losing seats, while Florida and Texas are gaining representatives.
Rothman said he received little blowback from Democrats after announcing he would challenge a fellow member of Congress with a similar voting record. After party leaders became convinced Rothman wasn't going to change his mind, he said they urged him and Pascrell to "make sure it's a clean fight and it doesn't get negative."
"It's very unfortunate," he said of the upcoming primary campaign. "Neither I nor Billy caused this to happen."
The redistricting panel, composed of six Democrats and six Republicans, put forth a series of proposed maps. In the end, the tie-breaking 13th member, former Attorney General John Farmer Jr. chose a map submitted by Republicans.
Rothman said he harbors no resentment at the outcome.
"It was a partisan battle that the Republicans won and now we go forward," he said.
The winner of the June primary will be heavily favored to win against any Republican challenger in November in the solidly Democratic district.