A Roukema endorsement would hurt Republican Scott Garrett in the contest, but not doom him. “Representative Roukema simply doesn’t like his politics,” says a Roukema insider in Washington. “She didn’t like him in the primary and she likes him even less as the Republican nominee.”
In the GOP primary Roukema endorsed the liberal challenger state Sen. Gerry Cardinale, who some believed was better positioned to win in the general election. But Garrett whipped Cardinale and is actually in better shape than some might think. “We don’t need Roukema’s endorsement, it’s just sour grapes,” says a Garrett staffer. “Unlike her, Scott Garrett understands what it takes to get New Jersey’s 5th District constituents what they need out of Congress.”
That’s a shot at Roukema’s increasingly deteriorating standing with the conservative House leadership. The longest serving woman in the House, Roukema was left out on the leadership’s front porch, unable to push her way inside after clashing repeatedly with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, current House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Republican leaders Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. “She was unreliable,” says a current House leader. “Why would we consider her for a leadership position? She did nothing to give us the impression she’d help us when the chips were down.” Ultimately, her failure to move into the leadership pushed Roukema to retire.
While Roukema’s pending endorsement of Sumers is a slap at Republicans and Garrett, it’s not entirely surprising. A former Republican herself before switching parties to run for Congress, Sumers in the past has hosted fundraisers for Roukema in her district. “They are old friends,” confirms the Roukema staffer.
In the end, though, Garrett should not be hampered by the lack of support from Roukema in holding the seat for the GOP. This, after all, is a district that voted heavily for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler. “If he runs a smart campaign, and gets Schundler and other Republicans in there to help him, he should have a good shot,” says the House leader. “We’re counting on him to hold that seat.”p> SUE FOR SMITH
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