POLITICS

New Jersey Congressional Candidates Campaign Carefully Around Hurricane Sandy

10/31/2012 06:31 pm ET

With storm assessments declaring New Jersey the hardest-hit state by Hurricane Sandy, politicians face a delicate balance of staying in the public eye without politicizing tragedy.

The race for the 9th Congressional District seat in northern New Jersey between Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (R) provides a case in point.

With electricity outages in much of the area, finding a place to recharge computers and cell phones is important to stay connected.

"As the only major location in town with power, Bergen County residents flocked to the Garden State Plaza to take a break from Hurricane Sandy's aftermath. The mall had opened on Tuesday to serve as a charging station for residents and long lines were also forming in the food court and mall restaurants," Paramus Patch reports.

Candidate Boteach urged owners of the Garden State Plaza to keep the mall's doors open for people who lost power.

"When I visited Garden State Plaza yesterday evening to be in a warm place with light and power with my kids, I noticed hoards of people affected by Hurricane Sandy who were able to find some comfort by taking advantage of the warmth and power available at the mall," Boteach said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The greatest concern right now in New Jersey is the safety and well-being of our friends, family and neighbors. I urge the residents of New Jersey to do just one good deed following this disaster of epic proportions; we should come together not as nation of Republicans and Democrats or conservatives and liberals, but as a nation of Americans, who care for each other in times of crisis and need."

On Monday, Boteach, who calls himself "America's rabbi" and has served as a spiritual adviser to reality TV star Jon Gosselin and the late Michael Jackson, also released a video of himself in windy weather, saying in part: "When this crisis is over, make sure you go to a relief center and assist. Help your neighbors clean up the debris. Together, we'll bring blessing to America through our unity."

Pascrell weighed in on the storm by shying away from videos and mall promotion and focusing on congressional duties, saying in a statement on Tuesday that he thanked President Barack Obama for approving Gov. Chris Christie's request for help from the federal government. Obama granted a pre-disaster emergency declaration for New Jersey on Sunday evening and declared a disaster statewide on Tuesday. Pascrell has also sought additional federal assistance for Bergen and Passaic counties.

"I commend President Obama for his fast response to the governor's request for federal assistance in New Jersey, but additional resources are required in northern New Jersey due to damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy," Pascrell said.

"As a result of a levee breach on the Hackensack River, residents in Moonachie, Carlstadt and Little Ferry are stranded and in desperate need of assistance. I want to ensure local governments and first responders have the federal government's support in their efforts to keep residents safe and help the long term recovery after this storm."

Pascrell and Boteach are competing for a newly redrawn Democratic-leaning district spanning parts of Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties.

Follow Daniel Lippman on Twitter @dlippman

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The Huffington Post is eager for insights from our community, especially people with experience in power, infrastructure and engineering, on the adequacy of emergency preparation in advance of Hurricane Sandy, and the degree to which past disasters have informed adequate planning and construction. Please send a note to sandytips@huffingtonpost.com with insights and suggestions for the important questions that need to be asked of relevant private sector and government officials, and point us toward stories that need to be pursued.

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