November 2, 2016
THE FIFTH congressional district was once represented in Congress by Marge Roukema. The old-school Republican was a bridge between the conservative rural portions of the district and the more moderate towns found in Bergen County. The 5th was drawn as a Republican district; it still is. And it still is a mixture of ideological points of view. And that has been The Record’s problem with Republican Scott Garrett of Wantage. He has only one point of view: His.
The seven-term incumbent has prided himself as an outlier even among Republicans. The House Freedom Caucus, of which Garrett is a co-founder, advocates for conservative values and limited government. We do not support bloated government, but it has puzzled us this past 14 years why someone with such an aversion to big government wants to sit in Congress.
This year, Garrett is facing his most serious challenge in Democrat Josh Gottheimer. The Wyckoff resident was a speech writer for former President Bill Clinton and then went on to work as an executive at Microsoft. He has proven a prodigious fundraiser, a necessity when running against an incumbent.
Gottheimer wants to reduce taxes and simplify the tax code – on that score he sounds like a Republican. In fact, he’s anti-tax all around, not supporting an increase in the income threshold for paying Social Security taxes. He wants to reduce the corporate tax rate and reduce unneeded federal regulations. He promises to fight for grant money for local towns, often citing the Republican mayor of Vernon who says Garrett would not help him get a grant for a new fire truck. Gottheimer believes in keeping the social safety net in place for minorities, seniors and the disenfranchised and he supports a woman’s right to choose and LGBT rights.
During an editorial board meeting with The Record, Garrett bristled when questioned on his past statements about whether he would financially support gay Republicans for public office. He told us he would. He also said that the majority of congressional votes are not contentious and residents of the 5th District are more concerned about taxes than they are about LGBT rights. That may be true for some. But the thing is that a member of Congress has to represent all the people of his district, not just the ones who agree with him.
And that becomes the fundamental deal-breaker for us. There is a place for ideology and there is a place for comity. And we believe too much of the former and not enough of the latter has brought Congress to its current gridlock.
Garrett has a leadership position on the House Financial Services Committee. He is passionate about money and financial markets and he could be a strong advocate for the people of New Jersey when it comes to bringing back needed projects to the state. But his distaste for the very government he claims a paycheck from gets in the way, prevents him from fighting hard, loud and early for 9/11 first-responders and providing federal relief after natural disasters. He was willing to shut down the government to make a point on Obamacare.
Gottheimer has never held elected office. We wish he was more passionate about why he is running, but he is clearly passionate about people, not just budgets. In the end, the 5th District needs an advocate who sees each resident as equal and worthy of his congressman’s voice in Congress.
The Record endorses Josh Gottheimer in the 5th Congressional District.