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Zina Spezakis is challenging Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson) in the Democratic primary for Congress

Bill Pascrell draws a Democratic primary challenger

Environmental activist Zina Spezakis to launch 9th district House race next month

By David Wildstein, March 06 2019 4:03 pm

Zina Spezakis, a clean technology investor and environmental activist, will challenge Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson) in the Democratic primary in New Jersey’s 9th district next year.

“We’re just at the beginning of the process,” said Spezakis, a single mother from Tenafly who spent more than two decades in the financial services industry.  “I will run”

Spezakis filed a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission last week, and intends to formally launch her bid to unseat Pascrell sometime next month.  Online fundraising records show she has raised at least $2,310 so far.

She said she decided to run for office after reading the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

“We have no time left.  We need to pass Carbon Price legislation now,” Spezakis. “I’m running because I have a very strong sense of urgency for climate change.  It’s a big issue.  It’s a scary issue.”

Pascrell announced today that he has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal legislation sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

“I was really happy to see that,” Spezakis said, noting that she thinks climate change “could be a bridge issue, not a wedge issue.”

Spezakis said she has hired Millennial Strategies, a New York-based political consulting firm. She says her consultants estimate it will cost $500,000 to $1 million to beat Pascrell in a primary.

“I’m going to put my money where my mouth is,” Spezakis told the New Jersey Globe.  “I just haven’t decided the amount.”

She said she would put $30,000 to $50,000 in early “just to get it kick started.”

Spezakis, 48, worked for Chase Manhattan, Morgan Stanley and other financial services companies before joining Allianz Global Investors in 2001.  She served as managing director and COO of their operations and risk management divisions and COO of managed accounts for seven years before moving on to investment strategies firms.

The daughter of Greek immigrants who ran a deli across the street from the New York Times, Spezakis grew up in Englewood Cliffs and attended Cornell University.  She received an MBA from the University of Chicago, as well as a master’s degree in international Relations.

Pascrell won his first congressional election in 1996 after serving in the State Assembly and as mayor of Paterson.  He currently chairs the House Ways and Means Trade subcommittee.

He faced eight-term Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Englewood) in the 2012 primary after redistricting eliminated one of New Jersey’s House seats and won 61% of the vote.

Pascrell defeated 2018 primary opponent William O. Henry with 86% of the vote.

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