Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The resignation of Rob Andrews

ongressman Rob Andrews (NJ-1) announced that he was resigning from Congress to join a Philadelphia based law firm.  Andrews, the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, was allegedly involved in somewhat of a campaign scandal. He was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for using campaign funds on personal items.  Red State, the conservative news site, has already condemned Andrews as running away from the scandal. The New York Daily News, a liberal news outlet, also prominently features the scandal that Andrews was involved in.  The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named him one of the most corrupt members of Congress in 2012 and 2013.  His resignation will be effective around Presidents' Day.  I have seen Andrews in action at a committee hearing regarding two bills about labor unions (one of which was about mandating secret elections, the other I have forgotten, I would have to check my notes) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)'s decision to allow multiple subunions within a company.  His combative nature quickly made him a personal favorite. My favorite part of the hearing is when Andrews pointed out the lack of balance from the various people testifying.
Andrews had been considered to be a moderate Democratic member of the House.  He was seen as someone who was fiscally conservative and socially liberal, more in line with the Blue Dog Coalition that many Democratic members are a part of, today.   One of the biggest times that he broke from the party was when he voted in favor of the Iraq war and even worked with President George W. Bush, in doing so. His independent voting streak probably re-enforced his idea that he was a viable candidate for a higher office.  But this changed as we get closer to the present.
The resignation will essentially end the political career for Representative Andrews.  While he was a Congressman for a number of years, he had his eyes on a more prominent position before.  He filed to run in the Democratic primary for New Jersey's Senate seat in 2008. He was defeated by Senator Frank Lautenberg in the Democratic primary. Andrews was rumored as a possible replacement for Jon Corzine's Senate seat that eventually went to Robert Menendez.  There was speculation that Andrews would primary Menendez to get the Senate seat, but Andrews declined to run.  He also ran for the Democratic nominee for the gubernatorial election in 1997, but lost in the Democratic primary.  If not for the scandal that Andrews was facing about campaign contributions, he could have been someone to look out for in running for a Senate seat in the future to replace Menendez or possibly Governor, again.  A combination of the scandal and Cory Booker's popularity and ability to replace Lautenberg, probably contributed to Andrews's decision to walk away from politics.  It is unlikely that Andrews would be able to defeat Booker in a Democratic primary, even coming from the left, as we saw with Rush Holt earlier in 2013.

Since the Republican party still is in the majority in the House, the highest a Democratic member can be on a committee or a subcommittee is a ranking member.  It is unlikely that the Democratic party will be able to re-take the House in 2014, but still the ranking member position on a subcommittee still holds some influence.  His statemate in New Jersey, Rush Holt will become the new ranking member for the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.  If the Democratic party can re-take the House in 2014 or 2016, Holt may be able to become the chair of the subcommittee.  Many labor unions will be happy with such a development, as Holt has been a friend of the labor unions in the past and will likely receive even more support in the coming years.
Finally, there will be speculation as to who will replace Andrews.  He has not faced a competitive election since his first one, in 1990.  He has been receiving 70% or more of the vote each election cycle, since then.  The New Jersey 1st Congressional District is heavily Democratic and has voted for the Democratic candidate for President since 2000, each time voting for the Democratic candidate at a near two-thirds clip.  This will help the next candidate who wants to run for this district.  Both Andrews and the Representative before him James Florio, used the 1st Congressional District to try and springboard to a more prominent position.  Florio succeeded and was elected Governor of New Jersey.  If there is a Democratic candidate who is not only ambitious enough to run for Congress, but for Senate or the Governor's mansion, this is an ideal Congressional district to run in.

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