New Jersey 8th District
Paterson is one of the few American cities that have turned out pretty much as planned. It was the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton, who in the 1790s journeyed 20 miles from Manhattan to the Great Falls of the Passaic River in New Jersey. Watching the water surge down 72 feet—the highest falls along the East Coast—he predicted an industrial city would rise on the site. Hamilton formed the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, which opened a calico factory in 1794, and got Pierre L’Enfant, the designer of Washington, D.C., to design Paterson (named after then-Gov. William Paterson). In 1836, Samuel Colt began manufacturing revolvers here. One of the first American locomotives, the Sandusky, was built in Paterson in 1837. A walkout of cotton workers in 1828 was America’s first factory strike. Paterson ultimately became America’s “Silk City,” employing 25,000 silk-mill workers before the great strike of 1913 led by the radical Industrial Workers of the World. Paterson kept producing locomotives and, after the silk mills started closing down following another unsuccessful strike in 1924, became a cloth-dyeing center. Throughout, it attracted immigrants from England, Ireland, and, after 1890, Italy and Poland. The city continues to attract them today, even if its economy produces more service jobs and fewer manufacturing jobs. In 2000, Paterson’s population was 50% Hispanic, up from 30% in 1990. The city has gained a lively artists’ community in its postindustrial setting, and downtown’s “Little Palestine” reflects the city’s sizable Arab community—Turks, Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Jordanians. There is also a politically active Islamic Center in Paterson.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 8th Congressional District includes Paterson (its largest city) and much suburban and industrial territory west and south of Paterson and north of Newark. More than half the population lives in Passaic County; the rest are in Essex County. The district includes the mixed factory and middle-class towns south of Paterson on the Passaic River—Clifton, Nutley, Belleville, Bloomfield, and Passaic, which is majority Hispanic. On higher ground is affluent Montclair, with large populations of well-off African-Americans and Manhattan-oriented Boomers, the most Democratic part of the district outside of Paterson. Over the Watchung Mountain are affluent West Orange and South Orange, both heavily Democratic, and the small Republican towns of Cedar Grove and Verona. In the 1980s, the district leaned Republican; in the 1990s, it became heavily Democratic and remains so.