Andrews’ Wife Files for His House Seat

Rutgers Dean Seen as Potential Placeholder

Posted April 7, 2008 at 6:14pm

Although there was some speculation late last week that he might back off of his surprise Senate bid just before Monday’s deadline, Rep. Robert Andrews filed to challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey’s June Democratic primary.

Lautenberg, a well-funded veteran and party institution in the Garden State, will be considered the heavy favorite in the race, though it is interesting to note that Andrews’ filing petition contained just over 1,000 more signatures than Lautenberg’s did, according to the New Jersey Division of Elections Web site on Monday.

Andrews also spent the afternoon assuring media outlets that he was in the race to win it and appeared to close the door on any chance that he might still drop back into the race for the 1st district House seat he’s held for 10 terms.

“I am running to win the Senate race and I’m not running for the House,” Andrews said in an interview. “Win or lose, I am not running for the House.”

Skepticism about whether Andrews was working with Southern New Jersey Democratic Party boss George Norcross to create a safety net for himself emerged when it became clear over the weekend that the 1st district Democratic machine was lining up behind the lawmaker’s wife, Rutgers University Associate Dean Camille Andrews, as the party’s replacement in his Camden-based seat.

Though a Republican did file for the race on Monday, the 1st district is a safe Democratic seat where the winner of the June 3 primary should cruise to victory in November. Two other Democrats filed for the 1st district party nod on Monday, but if Camille Andrews were to drop out of the race after winning the nomination, the 1st district Democratic County Committee members would be tasked with picking her replacement.

Yet Camille Andrews may still serve as a placeholder for someone besides her husband.

A statement from the 1st district’s Democratic county chairmen from Burlington, Camden and Gloucester said that Camille Andrews had been asked to file as the party nominee but that the chairmen still support “a full and deliberative process to fill this nomination given the short time frame for nominating our candidate.”

But the statement didn’t rule out that Camille Andrews might be the eventual party nominee. The three Democratic party bosses praised her work as a lawyer, teacher, businesswoman and civic activist.

“She is completely knowledgeable about the issues that face the people of this district. We are grateful that someone of such high repute has agreed to show her willingness today to support the party and the people of the First Congressional District and stands ready to serve,” the statement said.

Lautenberg’s campaign manager, Brendan Gill, said Monday that the scenario playing out with Andrews, his wife and local party leaders in the 1st district reeked of “old-school” backroom politicking.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test,” Gill said on Monday. “New Jersey needs a Senator who will fight on behalf of the people of this state every day — not someone who plays games with the voters to protect his local political boss, George Norcross. Like much of the Andrews campaign so far, this latest maneuver demonstrates the old-school politics that the voters of New Jersey are sick and tired of.”

In other filing deadline news around the Garden State, Cape May Councilman David Kurkowski (D) filed to take on seven-term Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) in the 2nd district.

Kurkowski appears to be the party’s backup choice after state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D), who state and national party leaders were keen on, told local media last week that he would not run for the seat. Democrats believe that they can give LoBiondo a tough race in a district that swings between Democrats and Republicans in presidential years.

Meanwhile in the 5th district, a third Democrat, businessman Roger Bacon, joined the already lively Democratic primary field to see who will face third-term Republican Rep. Scott Garrett in November.

Bacon will face off against fellow Democrats Dennis Shulman, a blind rabbi whose fundraising abilities have caught the attention of national party leaders, and attorney and community activist Camille Abate, who lost her primary bid two years ago.