It is all but certain that Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ5) will be the Republican nominee for the 5th Congressional District this November. He is the most conservative member of New Jersey's congressional delegation and hardly sees much pressure from either side within his party. Thus, most of the focus again in the district revolves around whom will challenge him in the Fall. Last year was a constant guessing game and changing potential leading candidates before Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen would emerge from a two man primary as the Democratic nominee.
In the early stages of the 2014 election race in the district, there have already been two names tossed around as potentially general election opponents for Congressman Garrett.
The first being state Senator Bob Gordon (D-38), who was barely done defending his legislative seat in a tough race when his name was mentioned as a potential candidate. Gordon would only say early on that he was looking at the potential for declaring his candidacy.
As Gordon would outline,
It would be extraordinarily difficult to mount a challenge in the 5th District. Scott Garrett has a tremendous amount of money available, and I'm not sure I want to spend the next year raising that kind of money. Hackensack, my own town of Fair Lawn and two-thirds of Teaneck are now in the district, a large portion of which is in Bergen. Not to dismiss any preceding Democratic candidates, but Mr. Garrett has never had a formidable race.
Two years ago, then-Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) was also mentioned as a strong contender against Garrett before she would pull her name out of potential consideration for the Democratic nomination.
Gordon would follow a similar script as Wagner in the end as less than a month after his name was circulating, he would withdraw his name from consideration.
I gave it a great deal of thought and decided that I’m in a position to do some significant things in areas like mental health, infrastructure, transportation and healthcare and I want to work on these issue. I believe I have greater opportunities to produce real substance in Trenton right now than I believe I would as a freshman member of the minority party of an institution that is not getting much done, that is, frankly, maybe toxic.
As he would add,
One thing that really made me look at this was the opportunity to retire Scott Garrett, whose views are at odds with a majority of people in Bergen County. We’re not going to end the dysfunction until we understand that Congress is a place where conflicting views must be accommodated. We will not get far if we believe that people serving there will not budge from their hard-edged philosophies, but this is not the time for me to do it.
With Gordon's exit, that left only Hackensack attorney Roy Cho as the lone declared Democratic Party candidate. Based on the field that might emerge, Cho could be the leading candidate to pick up Gordon's endorsement and many others in the area.
Right before Gordon officially exited the race, Cho would express the following about his own candidacy:
The great thing about this country is that if you want something, you have to go out there and you have to participate. You have to engage. Think about how much the world would have lost out on if young, entrepreneurial and risk-taking people weren't willing to take a big, calculated risk and take a chance on something. We need to be able to encourage that same type of risk-taking behavior in the public sector, because that's our responsibility as American citizens.
Cho is certainly going to have to generate much attention to his campaign along with bringing in funds beyond the aspect of overcoming the tilt of the 5th congressional district. Cho will likely touch upon immigration and education as two top cornerstones of his campaign. He is the son of Korean immigrants who worked his way through Brown and Georgetown Law. He has also worked with former Democratic Governor James McGreevey and former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) among other places.
Cho is looking like he is undeterred by any early doubts of his candidacy and has already raised nearly 200,000 largely through fundraisers.
As Cho would add,
Scott Garrett is out of touch with the district. After the 2010 redistricting, I think the Fifth is very different, and very competitive. Scott Garrett was the only member of the New Jersey congressional delegation who voted against reopening the government after the October shutdown. He voted against the reauthorization of both the Violence Against Women Act and the Voting Rights Act. He was initially against aid for Hurricane Sandy. This is certainly somebody who is putting ideology ahead of the needs and interests of his constituency.
He would continue,
I'm young, and I'm hungry. I can help show that there can be meaningful cooperation between private and public sector actors. People are ready for change, and I've raised a lot more money than other people have before this early in the race. But you have to really have a belief that goes beyond what the numbers say, and as Americans, we have a responsibility to hold people accountable for the positions that they are taking. Scott Garrett has failed the test of public service. This is a real race, and I'm ready to win.
A Congressman Garrett mailer that read the following would get Cho even more riled up for his candidacy:
Scott understands that in this time of economic crisis, every line-item in the federal budget needs to be examined to uncover waste, fraud, and abuse.
As one of the most vocal and influential members of the radical Tea Party movement in all of Congress, Congressman Garrett was a non-stop presence throughout the media citing fiscal accountability to taxpayers as one of the driving forces behind the need for a shutdown of the federal government in October. It is truly the height of hypocrisy for him to now send out campaign propaganda touting fiscal austerity using taxpayer money.
Garrett opposed ending the government shutdown in October and unlike the rest of the congressional representatives on both sides of the political aisle in this area of the country was initially considering voting against a relief package for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Cho would further voice,
Congressman Garrett characterized Hurricane Sandy disaster relief as 'wasteful spending'. We demand to know how he would characterize this piece of campaign literature and exactly how much taxpayer money was spent on it. Congressman Garrett must surely be glad the federal government is back open for business so someone can foot the bill on his campaign propaganda. However, I believe there is no doubt that he should dip into his substantial campaign war chest and reimburse the taxpayers of the 5th District.
While it is a wise strategy for the Democratic Party to get behind a leading candidate early in hopes of winning the seat similar to what they are doing in Burlington and Ocean Counties in regard to the 3rd Congressional District and another tough seat they are trying to pickup this year. For now, Cho will need to continue his focus on fundraising and building up support among his party and its voters. Time will tell who else might interject their name. It will be another test for the Democrats regardless of whom they nominate against an incumbent with a lot of money in a district that leans in his favor.