Few things carry the power of a call in support for a candidate from a respected leader. Fewer things are more tricky to overcome for an opponent than a call from a respected leader that comes as your voters are headed to the polls. That may be the effect that Georgia congressman John Lewis' robo-call into CD9 for Bill Pascrell this morning may have. (call text below the fold) This follows an ugly night of concern by Team Rothman of vote tampering, a charge by Team Pascrell of racism in Rothman's ranks, then this morning that robo-call for Pascrell from a fellow House Democrat who sat at Martin Luther King's right hand and carries great credibility in matters of racism. But Team Rothman says Lewis was "duped":
"What a shameful, shameful, terrible act of desperation by the Pascrell campaign. Shameful. It's shameful he was duped like that. You're supposed to be able to examine vote for mail ballots before they're opened. But that's okay, we're feeling good. We're confident it's going to be a good day."
Last night, CD9 was New Jersey's election flashpoint. A lawyer for the Steve Rothman campaign raised a red flag about possible irregulaties, including a Paterson storefront covered in Pascrell signs where passers-by were being told they could fill out vote-by-mail ballots inside. Rothman's campaign wanted more time to examine the ballots before they were opened. Passaic County Elections Superintendent Robert J. DeMers Jr. ordered the ballots impounded. But late last night that order was vacated by a Superior Court Judge. That judge gave the Rothman campaign a 90-minute head start this morning at 6am, before the Board of Elections opening and counting them at 7:30am.
With 2,000 votes at stake, the accusations between the campaigns ramped up. Pascrell campaign manager Justin Myers accused Rothman of voter suppression:
"This frivolous legal action at taxpayer expense is the cherry on top of Steve Rothman's entire campaign strategy and tonight's court decision to prevent the Rothman campaign's efforts to suppress the vote in Paterson represents another huge victory." - Myers
"Today's maneuver to impound votes in Passaic County rings eerily similar to Republican efforts across the country to impede people's rights to vote. Voters in Paterson and Passaic County will not be intimidated." - Myers
Given that charges of voter suppression most commonly occur when the Democratic and Republican parties accuse each other, Team Pascrell's accusation raised the temperature on an already hot mess of a primary.
But Rothman's campaign points to attempts they made to contact newly-registered voters in towns where Pascrell conducted registration drives. In Passaic, they say, 680 of those came back from the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable. Team Rothman's Paul Swibinski:
"People aren't there. This raises serious questions about potential voter fraud by the Pascrell campaign. All we want is a fair and honest election. To call that racist is a ridiculous smokescreen and suggests the Pascrell campaign has something to hide and they're trying to cover it up." - Swibinski
Charges of racism are "flatly false and are offensive." [snip]
"The Rothman Campaign wants a fair and transparent campaign, and we wonder why the Pascrell Campaign does not want the same." - Swibinski
Text of Rep. John Lewis Robo-Call for Bill Pascrell in CD9
"Hello, this is Congressman John Lewis from the state of Georgia urging you to vote for my dear friend, Bill Pascrell, for Congress today. As a long-time civil rights leader, I'm very concerned about reports of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in Paterson and Passaic by Pascrell's opponent. We cannot let this team win, Bill Pascrell is the fighter north New Jersey needs in the House of Representatives and I ask that today you please come out and vote for Pascrell's Democratic team. I hope I can count on you. We need Bill Pascrell now more than ever before."