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RIVER EDGE – Call him “Austerity Auth.”
Ok. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that can be the motto for Robert Auth’s congressional campaign in CD-5.
The 63-year-old from Old Tappan has been in the state Assembly since getting elected in 2013. These days, that can be a lonely place for a Republican, so it’s probably not all that surprising that Auth said a week or so ago that he wants to run for Congress against Democrat Josh Gottheimer. Since there is no Assembly election this year, Auth can seek higher office without giving up his current job, which is quite the luxury.
For some reason, a number of Republicans suddenly think Gottheimer, a two-term incumbent, is going to be easy to beat. Almost 10 people have expressed some interest in the race; the four main contenders appear to be Auth, Frank Pallotta, who held a campaign kickoff last week, Mike Ghassali, the mayor of Montvale, and John McCann, who ran unsuccessfully against Gottheimer in 2020.
Auth acknowledges that Gottheimer has tried to act like a centrist, but not surprisingly, criticizes him for his pro-impeachment vote.
This race still has to shake out, but in a response to Pallotta’s kickoff last week, a Gottheimer spokesman said in a statement that the congressman “works day in and day out with Democrats and Republicans to solve problems from lowering health care costs, to cutting taxes and fixing our crumbling roads and bridges.”
Auth knows his campaign will continue, or simply end, on March 23, the night Bergen County Republicans convene to endorse a candidate. The district also includes parts of Warren, Sussex and Passaic counties, but the majority of the district population wise is in Bergen. Auth says that if he doesn’t get the party endorsement, he’ll give up his candidacy as opposed to running in the June primary “off the line.” He says he wouldn’t want to be an “impediment” to the party’s candidate of choice.
Not surprisingly, he thinks he’s well positioned to get the nod of the county committee. He says that as a current office-holder, active Republicans know him. He points out that all but three towns in his 39th Legislative District are also in CD-5.
“Other candidates are going to have to spend money introducing themselves,” he said during a mid-afternoon meeting on Monday in a local diner.
Moreover, he’s been battle tested, saying that Democrats have spent heavily trying to flip his district to no avail.
“Craig Coughlin (the Assembly Speaker) said he targeted 39,” Auth said, speaking of his reelection last fall.
The “Austerity Auth” moniker comes from the assemblyman’s ideas about cutting the federal budget. He wants to cut spending across the board by 10 percent, with the likely exception of the military
On one hand, this type of belt-tightening has been common among conservative Republicans. Up until now, that is. Under the stewardship of Donald Trump and the 2017 federal tax cuts, the budget deficit is now estimated at $1 trillion. This has produced the ironic political spectacle of many Republicans ignoring the deficit and Democrats, who never really cared about it, raising alarms.
Auth, who is taking the long view here, says spending must be gotten under control in the next decade or so to avoid serious financial problems.
His position is that an across-the-board cut will treat all spending initiatives the same, thereby “spreading the pain.”
More importantly perhaps, Auth reasons that reigning in spending will unleash what he calls society’s “creative juices.” Or in other words, individuals and businesses who may see a reduction in a program they like will find innovative ways to cope.
Health care is another issue Auth raised right off the bat. He’s no fan of the Affordable Care Act and praises the president for trying to get rid of it bit by bit.
Nonetheless, he concedes that some parts of the ACA – no discrimination against pre-existing conditions and kids on their parents’ policies until age 26 – are popular. But he’s not sold on government mandating that this be done.
Auth says he’s confident that if regulations vanish and if there is competition across state lines, insurance companies would institute those policies simply because they are good for business.
The assemblyman is pro-life and is reluctant to support extending federal gun laws, saying that he thinks states should be able to devise regulations that work for them. While these positions can help a candidate in a GOP convention, they may be problematic in a general election.
But that won’t be a concern for Auth unless he prevails in March.