Josh Gottheimer is a US congressman representing New Jersey’s 5th congressional district. The New Jersey Democrat made headlines this week after he clashed with the social democrat Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. On Thursday, news reports say, Ocasio Cortez warned her fellow Democrats that if they failed to vote along with the party leadership, they could be put “on a list” and targeted for possible primary challenges. Ocasio Cortez allegedly made this threat during a closed-door caucus meeting, in which she slammed the centrist Democrats who had voted along with Republicans during a vote on legislation that would require ICE to be notified if an uncdocuented immigrant tried to buy a gun.
Gottheimer was one of the 26 Democrats who voted against the party leadership on the controversial amendment. Gottheimer also pushed back against Ocasio Cortez’s alleged threats: in an interview with the Washington Post, Gottheimer compared Ocasio Cortez’s style to Richard Nixon. Being unified means ensuring that Democrats aren’t primarying other sitting Democrats,” Gottheimer told the Washington Post. “Since when is it okay to put you on a Nixonian list? We need to have a big tent in our party, or we won’t keep the House or win the White House.”
Gottheimer, who is Jewish, has spoken out against what he calls the rise in anti-Semitism. At least one of his supporters has had their home defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti after putting up signs in support of Gottheimer.
Here’s what you need to know about Josh Gottheimer:
1. Gottheimer Is a New Jersey Native who First Got Into Politics at Age 16
Gottheimer, 43, was raised in North Caldwell, New Jersey. His mother was a preschool teacher at Temple Beth El in South Orange, New Jersey; his father was a small business owner who had a cosmetics store in Newark. Gottheimer has written that he worked in his father’s store growing up; he also describes his fond memories of vacations at the Jersey Shore and a trip to the Meadowlands to see Bruce Springsteen in concert.
Gottheimer got involved in politics at an early age. When he was 16, he became a United States Senate Page for New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg; he got the position through a family friend. Describing the job later, Gottheimer said, “You’d help the senator, getting an easel, a cup of coffee, whatever they wanted, and you’d also get exposure to the Senate. I fell in love with the process.” Gottheimer also took on internships with C-SPAN, the Secretary of the United States Senate, and Tom Foley, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
2. Cory Booker Backed Gottheimer’s Congressional Bid
Gottheimer has served in the US Congress since 2017. While he was running for election in 2016, he had the support of New Jersey senator Cory Booker. Booker said at the time that he was “jumping in whole-heartedly” to support Gottheimer, describing Gottheimer as “fiscally responsible” and socially inclusive. Booker and Gottheimer have teamed up since Gottheimer’s elction to support an initiative to fight lead-contaminated drinking water; the two men have also written about the rise of anti-Semitism.
3. Gottheimer Idolized Bill Clinton & Was Once a Speechwriter for Him
Gottheimer says that Bill Clinton was his political hero -“the greatest experience I have ever had. He is my political hero.- he has called Clinton his “Jack Kennedy” and said he portrayed Clinton during high school debating exercises. He volunteered on Clinton’s first presidential campaign, stuffing envelopes. In 1995, when he was a college student at the University of Pennsylvania, he was hired to work on Clinton’s re-election campaign, serving on the “rapid response” team and gathering information about Bob Dole, Clinton’s Republican challenger.
When Gottheimer was 23, he was writing his doctoral thesis and supporting himself working at a Ben & Jerry’s in Washingont DC. That’s when the White House called him and offered him a job as a speechwriter for President Clinton. Gottheimer says he didn’t hesitate for a moment. He has called that job “the greatest experience I have ever had. He is my political hero.”
4. Gottheimer Married His College Sweetheart & They Have Two Children
In 2006, Gottheimmer married Marla Tusk.The two met when they were undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania; both went on to law school. Tusk is a practicing lawyer who has worked in the counter-terrorism section of the US Justice Department. The couple has two children, Ellie and Ben.
5. Gottheimer Has a Law Degree from Harvard & Studied at Oxford University
Gottheimer earned his BA in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1997. He went on to study at Oxford University, where he focused on American history. He had initially planned to complete a PhD but changed his mind when the Bill Clinton White House offered him a speechwriting job. Gottheimer later went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University.