NJ Primary Elections 2020: District 9

NJ Spotlight | June 24, 2020 | NJ Decides 2020

New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District includes parts of Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties.

This is a Democratic stronghold, with 44% of registered voters identifying as Democrats, compared with just 15% of Republicans. Four in 10 registrants have not declared for either party. The second-largest Hispanic population of any district is in the 9th, with almost 39% of residents Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr., who represents the district, has been in office since 1997. He faces two primary opponents, Alpaslan Basaran and Zinovia Spezakis.

The Republican primary is also contested, with Billy Prempeh and Timothy C. Walsh the candidates.


Seeking his 13th term in Congress, Pascrell is known as a fighter and has been among the most vocal critics of the Trump administration in New Jersey’s congressional delegation.

Pascrell is New Jersey’s only member of the House Ways and Means Committee and he has focused on such issues as preserving Medicare and Social Security and restoring the full federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes. He authored legislation creating the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. Pascrell has also worked to get funding for transportation infrastructure projects, including the Gateway program.

A former state Assemblyman and teacher at high school and college levels, Pascrell has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degree in philosophy. Father of three and grandfather of five, he lives in Paterson with his wife. Follow this link for more information.

Founder of a strategic capital advising firm, Basaran holds bachelor’s degrees in economics, history and political science from Vanderbilt University and a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Basaran’s parents brought him to New Jersey at age four. He lived here for a number of years as an undocumented immigrant, but returned to Turkey with his family in the early 1990s when they were unable to make ends meet. He and his mother returned four and a half years later after getting their green cards. Basaran lives in Fort Lee with his wife, two small children and parents, who are both retired.

Basaran’s positions are progressive: He supports health care for all, amnesty for immigrants and the end of private gun ownership. He also is calling for significant criminal justice reforms, including replacing jail time with treatment for minor drug offenses, an end to all mandatory minimum sentences and the elimination of private prisons and detention centers. Follow this link for more information.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Spezakis attended Cornell University for undergraduate studies and holds master’s degrees in finance and business economics and in international relations from the University of Chicago. She worked for nearly two decades on Wall Street, including as managing director of Allianz Global Investors and is now director of Ecolectro, Inc., a clean tech company.

The environment is her top priority, prompting her to decide to run for Congress. “When I read that we have 12 years to save the planet, I knew I needed to do more,” she wrote on her campaign website. Spezakis supports transitioning the nation to 100% renewable energy. She also backs Medicare for all and regulating pharmaceuticals like a utility, including by capping drug prices.

Spezakis serves on the governing board of Citizens Climate Education. She and her two elementary school-age children live in Tenafly. Follow this link for more information.

The son of immigrants from Ghana, Prempeh is a U.S. Air Force veteran who was an aerospace ground equipment journeyman while stationed in England.

Prempeh is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and said he staunchly backs conservative causes. He would do away with visa lotteries for immigrants and supports the construction of the border wall. Prempeh also is supportive of open- and concealed-carry gun laws. He is pro-life. On the other hand, he also supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

Age 30, Prempeh is a lifelong resident of Paterson. He has the backing of the Passaic County Republican Committee. Follow this link for more information.

Vice chair of the Bergen County Young Republicans, Walsh is a 26-year-old graduate of Montclair State University.

Walsh says on his campaign website that he was inspired to enter politics by the candidacy of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. In 2018, he served as field director for the Republican National Committee’s operations in Bergen County. Walsh calls himself a conservative. He is pro-life, supports finishing the border wall and “cracking down on deadly, lawless sanctuary cities,” proposes easing restrictions on health insurance companies and enacting tort reforms to reduce the cost of health care.

The grandson of the general manager of the New York Giants, Walsh is a member of the Ramsey Environmental Commission. He was endorsed by the Hudson County GOP. Follow this link for more information.