Political Strategists Talk Harris, Pascrell/Rothman Primary

NJ Spotlight News | June 1, 2012 | Elections
Democratic Strategist Michael Murphy and Republican Strategist Bill Spadea discuss the upcoming Democratic primary between Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman.

Politicians have been buzzing about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection of state Supreme Court justice nominee Bruce Harris. The state is also gearing up for Tuesday’s primary. Democratic Strategist Michael Murphy and Republican Strategist Bill Spadea weighed in on the issues with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider.

Spadea said the Democrats overstepped and hurt themselves by failing to confirm Harris. “They had an opportunity to approve of what would be considered a very moderate, liberal Republican and I think now by going after him on his credentials, how are they going to handle it when the next nominee is a lot more conservative, not lined up with their positions at all, yet he’s got the judicial background that they claim was the only reason they shot Harris down?” he said.

Both Spadea and Murphy said the Harris confirmation hearing had the same outcome as Phillip Kwon, who was also rejected. Murphy said Harris lacked the depth of experience needed on the Supreme Court. “The governor put this name up and he probably saw the handwriting on the wall, could’ve withdrawn it, but took a lot of courage for Mr. Harris to sit through those four or five hours of hearings and now if the governor chooses somebody with the judicial background, it could very well be somebody who turns out to be more conservative,” he said.

Spadea said the Democrats’ rejection of Harris actually makes Gov. Chris Christie appear stronger. “I think the Democrats look small. I think they have emboldened the governor. I think they’ve made him look stronger,” he said. “And when it comes to taxes, when it comes to spending, the governor’s got a plan. He’s got a plan to reduce taxes, to bring business into the state to create employment. I think he’s on the right track and I think the average voter looks at the Democrats and says these guys aren’t even standing up on an ideological platform. They’re really taking a partisan stand and going after the governor because he’s a Republican.”

Murphy and Spadea also weighed in on the upcoming Democratic primary race between Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman in the ninth district. “Steve calls himself the Democrats’ Democrat,” Murphy said. “The part of the district where Rothman is from is larger than the part of the district where Bill Pascrell is from, but you never bet against Bill Pascrell in a street fight. He’s a scrapper.”

Spadea said Pascrell comes off as the grassroots candidate. “I think he’s coming off as I’m the guy who represents the average Joe Democratic voter,” he said. “I think Rothman overstepped again. He took this very hard line.” Spadea explained that defining himself as a progressive so far to the left could hurt him.

Pascrell has the support of former President Bill Clinton while President Barack Obama has said positive words about Rothman. Murphy said the endorsements aren’t surprising. “One of the very first meaningful officials in the state to support President Obama four years ago was Steve Rothman,” Murphy said. “And Bill Pascrell, an old school politician, had a great relationship with President Clinton and Hillary Clinton stood with the Clintons.”


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