By Matt Manochio, NJSpotlight.com
All three Democrats vying for the right to challenge the conservative Republican who represents the 5th District in Congress may be from Bergen County, but the similarity ends there.
There’s who served in Iraq. There’s a political organizer who follows the LaRouche movement. And there’s who is also a champion pumpkin chucker.
The winner of next Tuesday’s primary is going to need to be a champion campaigner to defeat five-term Rep. Scott Garrett, who has $1.8 million on hand to defend his seat.
“I think, ultimately, Scott Garret is going to have more money than I will -- but I don’t think that I need to outspend Scott Garrett to win,” Teaneck’s Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen, 38, said of potentially running against the GOP incumbent, who faces two challengers in the Republican primary but is expected to prevail.
Joining Gussen on the ballot are Jason Castle, 30, the former Marine from Cliffside Park, and Diane Sare, 46, the Lyndon LaRouche Democrat from Bogota.
“If you asked me in December, I would’ve had no desire to take on my sitting congressman, which would’ve been Steve Rothman,” said Gussen, who works in the insurance industry, of District 9’s current Democratic representative in the House.
The 2010 Census led to New Jersey being redistricted from 13 seats down to 12, and resulted in Rothman being drawn into Garrett’s district. Rothman opted to move to Englewood to in the primary to represent the newly drawn 9th District.
The Democratic primary field in the 5th offers voters three very different candidates. For instance, Sare is calling for the impeachment of the leader of the party: President Obama.
“Take the case of Libya,” Sare said. “This was a war which was run almost entirely by the United States, with N.A.T.O. as a fig leaf of a cover. In this case, we were bombing there. We did have troops on the ground … (Obama) never once went to Congress to get authorization. That’s an impeachable offense right there.”
Sare, who has been affiliated with LaRouche since the 1980s and has been a political organizer for the last eight years, also is seeking to reinstate the banking regulation law known as the Glass-Steagall Act. The 1999 repeal of that law, which limited commercial bank securities and was meant to control speculation, was “the main reason we are in this massive economic disintegration,” Sare said.
Castle, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is campaigning on more familiar themes.
“We’re mired right now in unemployment, we have an unfair tax code, we have men and women abroad,” said Castle, adding he wants to safely bring back U.S. military who are serving overseas.
Castle said Garrett is one of many congressmen who’ve become more comfortable with power, rather than serving the people who elected him.
“They need to focus on advocating for their constituents, and they’re not,” continued Castle, who sells computer equipment to Fortune 100 companies. “Clearly they forgot that they are serving at the privilege of the people. That’s what’s fueling my passion and conviction to run.”
Castle said that if he’s elected, he would like to generate support in Congress to incentivize universities and colleges to enter into partnerships with organizations that teach trade skills.
“People who have lost jobs, people who have lost professions, [need to] learn a new skill or profession,” Castle said. “They’re going to be much more employable.”
Gussen said he would be the best pick of the Democratic field because of his experience in elected office.
“This isn’t just a debating club,” said Gussen, in his sixth year on Teaneck’s governing body. “It’s a level of experience and maturity that just can’t be glossed over. There’s a real big difference with having sat on the dais … and tasked with making those decisions, and tasked with making those people’s lives better.”