U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st) resigned yesterday after nearly two dozen years in Congress, and state Sen. Donald Norcross -- the brother of South Jersey’s Democratic powerbroker -- has announced his intention to seek the seat.
Andrews announced he will leave office February 18 to take a job leading the government relations practice of the Dilworth Paxson law firm. He said his resignation has nothing to do with an ongoing ethics investigation by a House committee of his use of campaign funds to fly his family to Scotland for a wedding -- among other questionable expenses.
“It is very much a decision that is a personal and family decision,” said Andrews, of Haddon Heights, adding that his role as a father and husband take precedence over his position as a U.S. Representative .
Looking at having to spend “three-quarters of a million dollars” to send one daughter to medical school and the second to college, Andrews said he decided to take position that will give him a higher salary. As a congressman, Andrews makes $174,000 a year.
It's unclear when voters will get to choose a successor. According to state statute there are two possibilities in this scenario: The governor can declare a special election that either coincides with the current election calendar or is separate from it, said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak.
Last year, when Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) died, Christie appointed Republican Jeff Chiesa to replace him temporarily and called for special primary and general elections, with the general election occurring less than three weeks before the general election in which Christie was reelected. Cory Booker, the popular former mayor of Newark and a Democrat, won the special election.
Two years ago, when Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-10th) died in office on March 6, 2012, his seat went unfilled until a special election held in conjunction with the regular November general election. His son, Donald Payne Jr., also a Democrat, won that seat.
Whenever the election is held, it is certain that Norcross (D-Camden) will be a frontrunner. Norcross, brother of George Norcross, announced his candidacy shortly after Andrews announced his resignation. Andrews said he would support Donald Norcross.
"I am running for Congress because South Jersey needs someone who is going to stand up for us in Washington, D.C., as Rob Andrews has done for more than two decades," said Norcross in a statement. "I have spent my career fighting for middle-class families, senior citizens and workers. It is a sad truth that while some are doing better, too many are falling further behind. If elected to Congress, I will focus on creating jobs across South Jersey and an equal opportunity for everyone."
Norcross already received endorsements from the mayor of Camden and Democratic Assembly Leader Lou Greenwald.
If Norcross has a challenger, whoever wins that primary is likely to win the seat. The 1st District, which includes Camden, is one of New Jersey’s bluest -- about 40 percent of registered voters are Democrats, compared with 14 percent Republicans.