Rep. Robert Andrews (D)
New Jersey 1st District
The closely built streets of the little city of Camden, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, have seen a fair amount of history. This was where the poet Walt Whitman lived when he wrote some of the versions of his Leaves of Grass. It was an immigrant-jammed industrial city then, with tinkerers and inventors. In 1894, a Camden machinist named Eldridge Johnson produced the Victor Talking Machine, the birth of the recorded music industry and a company that became RCA Victor in 1929. A few years later, the new Campbell Soup Company began producing condensed soups. Camden remained for years afterward a major industrial locus on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, not the broadest and certainly not the most picturesque of Atlantic estuaries, but probably the East Coast’s premier industrial waterway, with a concentration of steel factories, chemical plants, and oil tank farms equal to any in the country. The flatlands all around, mostly ignored in the 19th century, had easy access to cheap water transport and plenty of skilled labor from the Philadelphia area. For a quarter-century starting in the 1940s, this was one of the country’s fastest-growing industrial areas.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the 1980s and 1990s, Camden emptied out. Many of its factories had closed, and fewer than 10,000 manufacturing jobs remained. Its neighborhoods were beset by crime, its mostly minority residents were heavily dependent on public assistance, and its mayor was convicted for doing favors for Philadelphia’s organized crime leaders. Camden, ranked among the poorest cities in America, continues to struggle today. The median family income in 2006 was $24,612, compared with $65,026 for New Jersey as a whole. The state underwrites much of the budget of the nearly bankrupt city, and national crime data place Camden in the top five most crime-ridden cities. The bright spots are a newly-developed riverfront park, the New Jersey Aquarium, and the Sony Music/Pace amphitheater. There are plans for a new Campbell’s world headquarters. The port of Camden has rebounded, spurred by Del Monte’s large fruit-processing plant, plus large imports of foreign steel and exports of scrap metal.
The 1st Congressional District is, more or less, greater Camden, the Delaware riverfront from Riverton south to a point across from the Delaware state line, and the suburbs running southeast to the flat vegetable fields of South Jersey. The district is traversed by Black Horse Pike and White Horse Pike. Both routes date back two centuries; today, they connect Philadelphia to its middle-class South Jersey suburbs. Many of these boroughs and townships developed over the past half-century as a result of flight from Camden. The district includes a growing number of Hispanics, who now make up more than 40% of Camden’s population. Politically, this area has a Democratic heritage.
Rep. Robert Andrews (D)
Elected: Nov. 1990, 10th full term.
Born: Aug. 4, 1957, Camden .
Home: Haddon Heights.
Education: Bucknell U., B.A. 1979, Cornell U., J.D. 1982.
Family: Married (Camille); 2 children.
Elected office: Camden Cnty. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 1987–90.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1982–90; Adjunct prof., Rutgers Law Schl., 1985–86, 1989–90.
The 1st District is represented by Robert Andrews, a Democrat first elected in 1990. He grew up in Bellmawr, the son of a shipyard worker. At age 14, he got a job with the Suburban Newspaper Group, dreaming of covering basketball games and becoming a sportswriter. But his editor had other ideas; assigned to cover city halls, police departments, and zoning boards, Andrews developed an interest in the machinations of government and politics. He excelled in college, became the first in his family to get a degree, and went on to law school. While still in his 20s, he was elected to the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the help of then-Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Florio. When Florio left Congress to become governor in January 1990, he postponed the special election for a successor until November and supported Andrews for the post. Andrews had other help. His Republican opponent switched positions on abortion rights and lied about his college attendance. Andrews won 54%-43%.
|Robert Andrews (D)||206,453||(72%)||($3,502,678)|
|Dale Glading (R)||74,001||(26%)||($26,034)|
|Camille Andrews (D)||32,108||(83%)|
|John Caramanna (D)||4,342||(11%)|
|Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad (D)||2,222||(6%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (75%), 2002 (93%), 2000 (76%), 1998 (73%), 1996 (76%), 1994 (72%), 1992 (67%), 1990 (54%), 1990 (55%)
Andrews has a mostly moderate record, particularly on foreign policy. After Democrats lost control of the House in 1995, he kept a hand in shaping legislation by working with Republicans. He typically introduces more than 100 bills in a two-year term, the most of any House member.
As the ranking Democrat on the Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee of the Education and the Workforce Committee, he worked with John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the full committee, to expand the panel’s focus on pensions and retirement issues. When Democrats regained the majority in 2007, Andrews became chairman of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee. With Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., he spearheaded House approval of the controversial labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize in a workplace by gathering the signatures of more than half of the employees in a bargaining unit. Under current law, an employer can demand that an election be held after the signatures are gathered. Andrews also has ambitious plans to expand health coverage for the uninsured, perhaps paid for by higher taxes on the top 1% of taxpayers. In a first for Congress, Andrews in 2008 chaired hearing on transgender rights in the workplace.
Andrews was a longtime ardent proponent of the use of force in Iraq. Even when conditions in Iraq worsened after the overthrow of Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein, Andrews remained convinced that the situation was “better than leaving Saddam Hussein in power.” But in 2006, he called for Iraqi soldiers to take a stronger role in maintaining civil order in the country. And in 2007, he opposed Bush’s troop “surge” in Iraq. Andrews said he concluded that it was a mistake to try to referee a civil war.
Andrews has been re-elected by overwhelming margins and has continued to live with his family in Haddon Heights, commuting by train to Washington and occasionally sleeping overnight in his office. He has been frustrated in his efforts to attain higher office. He ran for governor in 1997, but was defeated in the primary by then-state Sen. James McGreevy. When McGreevy announced his resignation as governor in 2004, Andrews was interested in running again but stood little chance after Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine announced his candidacy. In the end, Andrews declined to run and endorsed Corzine, with the hope of winning appointment as Corzine’s successor in the Senate, but that didn’t happen.
In the 2008 election season, he surprised and angered many local Democrats when he challenged Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the primary. An Andrews ad called for change in “stale, tired, old politics,” an allusion to the 84-year-old Lautenberg’s age. Another ad did not even bother with the pretense of subtlety. “Lautenberg will be 91 at the end of his term—91,” it said. Andrews portrayed the contest as a “David versus Goliath” challenge to the Democratic establishment. Lautenberg shot back, calling Andrews “an enabler” for the Bush administration, especially on the war in Iraq. Lautenberg started with a big lead in the polls, and he benefited from a fundraising advantage. He won the Democratic primary 59%-35%.
Andrews had said that if he lost the contest for Senate, he would not run again for the House. But political insiders questioned whether he in fact maneuvered to keep the seat warm in case things didn’t work out for him in the Senate race: Andrews’ wife, Camille, ran for the Democratic nomination for his House seat in the primary and secured it. Then, on September 4, 2008, after Andrews had lost the Senate primary, he announced he wanted to run for his former House seat after all. Camille Andrews immediately bowed out, allowing the local Democratic committee to designate her husband as the new nominee. Although Andrews called the turnabout a simple change of heart, the upshot was, he was able to circumvent a prohibition on candidates running simultaneously for the Senate and the House. Republican challenger Dale Glading, a minister, accused Andrews for lying to his constituents. Still, he was handily elected, 72%-26%.