Pallone urges Andrews to keep his word and stay away from House seat

The bad blood between U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) and his congressional colleagues seeped around the edges of Election Day as U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) today called “absurd” the public exhortations by Andrews’s allies for the congressman to return to his House seat.

A little over two months ago, Andrews abandoned his claim to the seat he held for 18 years to run for the U.S. Senate. On the campaign trail, Andrews repeatedly denied that his wife, Camille, was merely keeping the seat warm for him should he fail.

After his Election Night concession speech to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the congressman reiterated his commitment not to reclaim the seat that Camille Andrews won the same night, burying her primary opposition by a more sizable margin than her husband was simultaneously buried by Lautenberg.

But in a Courier-Post article today, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts and Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney both urged Andrews not to give up his seat.

That left Pallone fuming over whathe sees as the South Jersey Democratic Organization trying to create public traction for Andrews to make an “aw, shucks” reclamation of his House seat – and to once again fail to keep his word.

“This is the kind of politics that gives New Jersey a bad name,” said Pallone. “Camille Andrews is the nominee. Rob Andrews says he’s not running, and I’ve been taking him at his word. It reflects poorly on the state if he takes the seat of someone who has been elected.”

Already irritated by Andrews going back on his statement to himself, the other Democratic members of the congressional delegation and Lautenberg that he would not challenge the senior senator, Pallone said the congressman should keep his word this time and respect the decision of the voters.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) remains similarly disaffected over Andrews’s pre-primary failure to keep his word to Lautenberg and the other Democrats, but Pascrell said he doubted that today’s public comments made by Sweeney and Roberts would put sufficient spring in Andrews to return to the House.

“Rob has a job of redeeming himself after he broke his word,” Pascrell said. “I don’t think he or his wife will be the candidate. I wish him and his family well. He’s got a great future. It might not be in politics.”

Seemingly stunned on the telephone by the suggestion that Andrews would now go back to Congress for another term, Bill Caruso, Andrews’s chief of staff, told today that his boss remains committed to not reclaiming the 1st District seat.

“Rob made his decision on Election Night,” Caruso said.

As for the entreaties of Pallone, Caruso added, “I guess you find out who your friends are.”

Pallone and Andrews exchanged greetings on the floor of the House today as the congressmen considered the federal budget. “We said ‘hello,’” said Pallone, “but nothing else I’d comment on.”

Pallone urges Andrews to keep his word and stay away from House seat