For more than a decade, Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., has routinely coasted to re-election over token opposition in the Democrat-dominated 8th Congressional District. This year is different, and the eight-term congressman – a close Capitol Hill ally of Islamist groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – is fighting for his political life.
After the New Jersey Legislature eliminated fellow Democratic Rep. Steve Rothman's neighboring district last year, he decided to run against Pascrell in the new, heavily Democratic 9th Congressional District. Before redistricting, the two men (both of them liberals first elected to Congress in 1996) were considered political allies. With the primary less than two months away, they have been transformed into bitter opponents.
Rothman supporters are emphasizing his strong support of Israel, contrasting it with that of Pascrell – one of 54 House members who joined Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in sending a January 2010 letter to President Obama denouncing Israel and Egypt for blockading Hamas-ruled Gaza. The letter accused Israel of imposing "de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip."