April 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bill Maher Focuses On Bergen County

HBO’s Bill Maher was raised in River Vale and graduated Pascack Valley High School before graduating Cornell. He was raised by his Irish Catholic father and his mother, who he did not know was a Hungarian Jew until his teens. In January, on his HBO program Real Time, he announced that “This year we’re going to be entering into the exciting world of outright meddling with the political process, as we attempt to Flip a District. There are a lot of terrible, entrenched congressmen out there. We’re going to choose one of them, throw him into the national spotlight, and see if we can’t send him scuttling under the refrigerator on Election Night.”

This was the launch of his Flip a District contest. In Phase I, he asked viewers to explain why their representative needs to be sent packing via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Recently, short You Tube videos have been added to the list of media that voters can choose from to express their outrage. The contest is being judged by content and cleverness, as well as volume of messages. Entries are still being accepted. The finalists will be entered in a bracket on the Tweet 16. The first two to make the initial cut were Reps. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island) and Blade Farenthold (R-Texas). The next two were Kerry Bentinolio (R-Michigan) and our own Scott Garrett of Congressional District 5, which includes northern Bergen County and points west. “Viewers nationwide have made Scott Garrett …the most tweeted and Facebook posted target for Bill Maher’s Worst Congressman in America #FlipaDistrict feature.”

The Tweet 16 will gradually be narrowed down to one champion. “Once we’ve chosen the district, we will spend the year periodically looking at the district, meeting the entrenched incumbent, introducing the fresh-faced challenger, getting to know the people they want to serve, and generally doing our level best to flip that district.” Then, Maher “will showcase examples of what he views as terrible work by the representative on his show, and will travel to their district to perform stand-up and generally stir up hostile feelings toward the show’s target.”

District 5 has a very good chance of being chosen. It is Maher’s hometown district, where his sister still lives. Maher is looking for entrenched politicians. Garret has already served six terms. He replaced moderate Republican Congresswoman Marge Roukema from this district. Maher is focusing on Tea Party candidates, and Garrett has been described as being one, even before there was a Tea Party. He is considered the most conservative representative in the state’s history. Maher is looking for someone who can be flipped. Teaneck Councilman Adam Gussen did better than expected in 2010, without much financing or outside help. Before entering Congress, Garrett was in the NJ General Assembly representing Sussex, Morris, and Hunterdon Counties. Since then, “he has received more money from Wall Street than any other member of the House.” This year’s Democratic candidate is Roy Cho of Ridgewood, who has gathered support from key Democratic leaders and many contributors. Bergen County is the biggest in the 5th Congressional District. Maher could make the difference.

Maher has been a well-known comic for over 30 years, starting in NY comedy clubs, and making frequent appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Among many other awards, he has earned 22 Emmy nominations without ever winning, which is the record. He earned them for Politically Incorrect, which appeared on Comedy Central and then ABC for many years, for his current Real Time, which is now in its twelfth season, and for two HBO specials.

He is also known for his film Religulous which Variety described as “spoofs of religious extremism across the world.” He has been quoted as saying that “I’m not an atheist… but religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. Doubt is the only appropriate response for human beings.”

Is Maher’s plan legal? It is as long as his efforts are not “coordinated with the person he hopes wins.” Will it work? It should make for controversial TV and an interesting congressional race.

By Stephen Tencer

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