Josh Gottheimer and local police – perfect together.
That was the unmistakable message the Gottheimer campaign wanted to convey during a Monday morning press conference in which the congressman from the 5th District was endorsed by the 33,000-member strong New Jersey State PBA.
Ever since joining the House of Representatives 18 months ago, Gottheimer has been a true friend of law enforcement, his backers said. Not only that, he also supports fire departments and EMS squads.
James Tedesco, the Bergen County executive and a volunteer fireman himself, told a small gathering outside the Paramus police station that Gottheimer has supported legislation that benefits all first responders.
The Democratic congressman, who is trying to hold onto a district he narrowly won two years ago, explained his feelings this way:
“I always have the backs of those who have our backs.”
While it may seem as if Congress has little to do with the workings of an individual police department, Patrick Colligan, the state PBA president, and others said Gottheimer has championed a number of bills that benefit law enforcement.
These are measures to combat opioid abuse, gun violence, terrorism and hate crimes, in addition to legislation to bolster penalties for cop killers. The congressman acknowledged cop killers already are punished severely, but said his bill would close a number of loopholes.
Specifically, Gottheimer was praised for securing federal grants to hire five Paramus police officers
An obvious advantage for Gottheimer in this regard is that his predecessor, Republican Scott Garrett, opposed just about all types of federal spending. So whatever grant money Gottheimer gets for a district that runs from the Hudson to the Delaware is going to look very good in comparison.
In fact, the congressman said he has secured on average a 16 percent increase in federal money for the 5th District. That amounts to about $290 per household.
Gottheimer, as he has done in the past, ridiculed what he calls the “moocher states.” These are states that generally receive on average more federal aid than the amount of taxes their citizens pay. New Jersey. of course, receives much less aid from Washington than its citizens send to the federal government.
New Jersey lawmakers from both parties have made this an issue over the years.
However, there really isn’t anything sinister about what goes on.
Income levels are quite high in New Jersey, which is why state residents pay a lot in federal income taxes. And because of New Jersey’s relative wealth, it gets less money back in social welfare spending than many poorer states. There’s no conspiracy here.
Notwithstanding its dubious nature, you can expect Gottheimer to keep talking about the moocher states. It is good politics.
It was noted today that Gottheimer is only one of two congressional Democrats to have a perfect rating from the National Association of Police Organizations. Republicans are the traditional “law and order” party, so it is a bit surprising that a Democrat has such a high rating from police.
This, of course, is what seems to make Gottheimer’s reelection a pretty good bet – at least for now. He has certainly claimed the political middle, or even moved a little bit right of center.
Gottheimer was asked a softball question about this fall shaping up as a good year for Democrats. This was a perfect opportunity for him to talk about Democrats taking control of the House and standing up to the president. Instead, he talked about a need for both parties to work together.
This strategy – if that is what it is – may annoy some on the left, but when push comes to shove, left-wing Democrats are not going to vote Republican – certainly not with Donald Trump in the White House.
The Republican challenger in the district is attorney John McCann, who once represented Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino.
“Josh Gottheimer is a fake, he hasn’t achieved anything,” Lauren Zisa, McCann’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “John McCann has a record of achievement, not only supporting law enforcement but actually working in law enforcement.
“While John McCann worked in a bi-partisan way to save the taxpayers of Bergen County $40 million, Josh Gottheimer and the State PBA opposed the police restructuring and all the efforts of McCann and the other hardworking officials in the County. The State PBA went as far as to call McCann the “driving force” behind the merger, which Gottheimer opposed.”
For his part, Saudino, who has switched from Republican to Democrat, has endorsed Gottheimer.
As for McCann, his one-time lawyer, Saudino said, “I don’t base congressional endorsements on friendship.”