Wagner Weighs Congressional Run Against Garrett
Decision to come after Assembly reorganization
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) will wait until after the Assembly reorganization on Jan. 10 to decide whether to challenge Congressman Scott Garrett in the newly reconfigured 5th Congressional District, which now includes a large swath of Teaneck.
Wagner said she would have to consult her family before committing to she believes would be a difficult race.
"Just the campaigning alone would be seven days a week," she said, even before the time commitment and constant travel between Washington and New Jersey that a victory would mean.
Wagner also said she wanted to keep pushing for education reform in the state legislature. She lamented the "negative stance" others have taken in making changes, and pledged to continue seeking input from educators on reforms.
But there are education problems to tackle at the federal level as well. Wagner believes Washington needs a plan to make higher education more affordable.
The rising cost of college is a burgeoning crisis, Wagner said.
"The next generation needs to have the best affordable education and I do not think that loans upon loans upon loans are the only answer," she said. "We have to come up with a better way."
Garrett came open for challenge after Rep. Steve Rothman's former 9th District district was redrawn. Rothman opted to challenge Rep. Bill Pascrell in the 9th District rather than take on Garrett.
Wagner credits her supporters for pushing her toward running. A Facebook group called "Draft Connie Wagner for Congress" was formed Dec. 27 and had 420 members Wednesday night.
"I have never said once, 'I want to be a councilwoman in Paramus,'" Wagner said. "It was people who came to me and said 'Why don't you do this?' Same way for Freeholder, the same way to run for Assembly."
Garrett has name recognition, but Wagner faulted him for being unwilling to budge on his viewpoints.
"I think people are looking for a change," she said. "I think people are looking for moderation. I think people are looking for a person that can compromise."
A successful challenge will require a lot of money. PoliticerkNJ.com reports that Garrett has $1.5 million in his war chest.
Wagner is one of a handful of potential challengers for the congressman. Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy, state Sen. Bob Gordon and even former Giant linebacker Harry Carson have all been floated as possible opponents for Garrett.
Wagner said her possible win would also be a victory for women across New Jersey.
"I think women have been underrepresented in Congress in New Jersey, and I think it's time for a woman to step up," she said.