Money, some say, is not everything.
Frank Pallotta (pictured, top) better hope that old saying includes campaign cash. Pallotta is the Republican challenger to incumbent Democrat Josh Gottheimer in the Fifth District.
Recent FEC filings show Gottheimer with more than $8 million of cash on hand. Pallotta had less than $100,000.
Of course, the Republican is trying to catch up.
Pallotta has three fundraisers scheduled over the next week or so. Two are in Bergen County and one in Sussex – a “patriotic pig roast” is how the campaign describes it.
Even by the standards of gerrymandering, this is an odd district. Are there really all that many similarities between spiffy Ridgewood and Oxford, a small town in Warren County? Both are in a district that stretches across North Jersey from the Hudson to the Delaware. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 17,000.
Two of the counties in the district, Warren and Sussex, are among the most Republican in the state. That hasn’t meant all that much when you consider that Bergen, by far the largest county in the district, has become primarily Democratic. It was once a GOP stronghold, but today, Democrats control all of county government.
In 2018, Gottheimer carried Bergen by a bit more than 50,000 votes. That margin easily overcame Republican wins in Sussex, Warren and Passaic, a small part of which is also in the district.
Winning more votes in Bergen, where he lives, is the obvious challenge for Pallotta, a one-time investment banker.
Both candidates were before the public this week – kind of.
Pallotta was on Facebook live Tuesday night talking about veterans’ issues; Gottheimer held a conference call with the press Wednesday morning.
Exemplifying the benefits of incumbency, Gottheimer proposed legislation to fight terrorism, a timely effort in light of the 19th anniversary of 9/11 on Friday.
His bills would seek to counter the spread of foreign extremism online by fining companies that allow terrorists to fundraise on social media platforms. Gottheimer said this is usually done via crypto-currency.
“Social media companies have not done enough,” he said.
The congressman said he is including all types of extremism, including what he said is a growing threat from white supremacy groups.
Asked about the fines, Gottheimer wasn’t specific other than to say he’s advocating “strong and strict penalties.”
Pallotta – like any challenger – can’t compete equally with an incumbent when it comes to proposing bills.
But in his Facebook event, Pallotta made legitimate points about too many COVID-19 related deaths at the veterans’ home in Paramus and a nursing home in Andover. The state, which oversees the Paramus home, was just fined $21,000 by the feds for poor performance during the pandemic.
“Leaders lead,” Pallotta said with the clear implication that Gottheimer is not. He said that the congressman has spoken about conditions at the nursing home and vets home, but has not criticized Gov. Phil Murphy.
In fairness, Gottheimer has called for the removal of the director of the veterans’ home.
Still, Pallotta is on pretty safe ground here. No one loses political points by supporting veterans and nursing home patients.