Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), a veteran Jewish member of the U.S. House of Representatives, lost his primary election bid against another incumbent, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
Rothman, who has served the 9th district in northerastern New Jersey since 1997, conceded late Tuesday night. He said he would not run for political office in the forseeable future.
The decennial redrawing of New Jersey districts prompted Rothman to move in order to run in the redrawn 9th district against Pascrell, rather than face a popular Republican, Scott Garrett, in the 5th district, where his old home is now located. Pascrell’s old district was the 8th, but with the redrawing, his residence is now in 9th.
Rothman had hoped for a win because much of the redrawn 8th covered his old 9th district.
The race with Pascrell devolved into bitter exchanges, with Rothman staking out more liberal ground on issues like immigration and abortion.
Israel featured large in the race.
Pascrell refused to denounce some Arab American activists who made an issue of Rothman’s pro-Israel record, and some Rothman surrogates accused Pascrell of not showing sufficient support for the state, for instance in signing a 2010 letter criticizing the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and Israel.
Rothman was seen as an important pro-Israel player because of his position on the armed services subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
He had helped pass increased funding for Israel’s missile defenses.
The National Jewish Democratic Council said it was “saddened” by Rothman’s loss.
“He has done a remarkable amount to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel, and has been a leader on a number of domestic issues.” NJDC said in a statement. We thank him for his 16 years of service to his country and constituents, and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. We also congratulate Representative Bill Pascrell on tonight’s win, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the future.”
Pascrell now faces celebrity author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who won the Republican nomination on Tuesday.