Pascrell vs Prempeh vs Armstrong

Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., has served in the House of Representatives since 1997.  His Republican opponent for re-election is William “Billy” Sreboe Prempeh, a 32-year-old Air Force veteran and fellow Patersonian making his second bid to displace the incumbent.  Prempeh, according to the FEC, had $6,406.75 ending cash on hand as of May 18.  FEC reported that as of June 30, Pascrell had $1,786,841.32 cash on hand.

Libertarian Party candidate Sean Armstrong is also running for CD-9’s seat.

A release from the Libertarian Party threw down a gauntlet in front of Pascrell—Armstrong and Prempeh want to debate, but they want Pascrell in the mix, asserting that the race is a three-way competition.

In fact, there is a fourth candidate, Lea Sherman of the Socialist Worker’s Party.  The SWP’s Leninist-style rhetoric perhaps embarrasses the other challengers who would rather not extend an invitation and distract from putting Pascrell on the hot-seat—if they can.

Though Prempeh and Armstrong want to face-off with Pascrell, the when-and-where of the debate had yet to be determined, ostensibly awaiting a response from the Democrat.  Though the gauntlet was thrown, it is Pascrell’s to pick up—or ignore.  From the incumbent’s position, Pascrell has enjoyed comfortable reelection margins in the past.  In 2020, he defeated Prempeh by taking 65.8% to Prempeh’s 31.9%.  In 2018, Pascrell bested Eric Fisher, taking 70.3%.  In 2016, Pascrell was returned with 69.7%, 2014 with 68.5%, 2012 with 74%.  While Pascrell’s 2020 performance was the lowest in the last decade, a 2-to-1 lead signals significant and consistent support which opponents must take seriously.

It is also likely that the 2022 election will be Pascrell’s last before retirement, according to sources, with Mayor Andre Sayegh being positioned to succeed him in 2024.  If such is the case, it may be that Pascrell can reliably count on one more electoral victory with his traditional campaigning without accepting any campaign face-off with the opposition.

“A debate would allow for transparency and familiarity with the candidates,” the Libertarian Party said in a statement.  “…the 9th congressional district has been re-drawn, which means some of the municipalities contained in the district have never been exposed to the candidates.  Debates in a public forum allow citizens to actively engage with who may represent them.”

While it might be beneficial in a democratic sense for voters to have an opportunity to hear from Pascrell, Armstrong, and Prempeh (although apparently not Sherman) in a debate forum which they say would have no pre-written questions, there seems to be little political advantage for Pascrell to agree to do so.  His roots run deep in the political system which orbits Paterson.  The congressman, though 85-years-old, remains a present figure in CD-9, particularly in his hometown of Paterson, where he had served as mayor from 1990-1997.  He has vowed at numerous public appearances to continue his work and he can be reliably counted on to appear in CD-9 functions.  Most recently, on Friday, August 19, Pascrell was posing for photos with Governor Murphy, Mayor Sayegh, Senator Nellie Pou, and Rev. Dr. Randall Lassiter in Paterson to hail an additional $10,725,000 in further FY2022 Transitional Aid going to Silk City.  Pascrell was able to connect himself with capital investments and infrastructure work—tangible assets which will get noticed.  The millions pouring into Paterson will be used towards critical road resurfacing, purchasing new police cars, improving the Paterson Museum, renovating parks, City Health, traffic safety, city vehicular electrification, improvements to the Riverside Senior Center, a new ambulance, automatic CPR machines, and a host of other items.

While Prempeh and Armstrong would enjoy the opportunity to cross intellectual swords with the incumbent, the ball, for now, remains in Pascrell’s court.

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