Panic in the delegation

With the deadline for a new Congressional map just over a week away, sources connected with the redistricting commission report that members of the state’s House delegation are on heightened alert, each wary that the seat that disappears could be theirs.

Phone calls from delegation members and their staffs have spiked, sources say, since a report last week that the commission could be leaning toward a so-called fair fight district that would combine U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett’s 5th District and U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman’s 9th District, pitting the two men against each other in November.

“It’s like they finally woke up and realized that come next week, one of them could be gone,” said one source connected with the commission.

The state is slated to lose one representative, owing to the slower than average population growth.  The focus to date has been on the northern half of the state, which saw a migration of voters south. While both Republicans and Democrats hope to convince tie-breaking member John Farmer Jr. of the merits of pitting two members of the other party against each other, both sides are pragmatic in admitting that a fair fight district is a strong possibility.

The Rothman, Garrett combination is a strong possibility, two sources told PolitickerNJ because the districts are contiguous and both were among the slowest growing districts over the past decade.  The districts meet at several towns in Northern Bergen County, including Rothman’s hometown of Fair Lawn.

Garrett is the most conservative member of the delegation and some Democrats not connected to the commission have said taking him out would be especially sweet, while Republicans counter that Garrett’s Tea Party support would come out in force if the 5th District Congressman is threatened.

Garrett’s last campaign finance filing showed about $1.5 million in cash on hand, while Rothman boasts a war chest of more than $1.7 million.

But while the combination of the 5th and 9th was confirmed as one possibility, the same sources concede there are several options and nothing will be determined until Farmer has viewed the initial submissions from each side and given some direction.

Still, that hasn’t quelled the angst of some members.

“They have been nervous all along, but it really picked up last week after (a PolitickerNJ) story and the Cook Report tweet,” one source said.

Another source who spoke to PolitickerNJ on condition of anonymity said representatives from both parties had called in hopes of gleaning information and potentially swaying a final vote.

“I have ties to both sides and both have reached out to me,” the source said. 

Farmer has set December 21 as the deadline for the new map.  The commission will meet next week beginning Monday as they hash out the new lines.

"I’m an undertaker by trade, so when I bury somebody, they don’t come back."
—Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato