Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Adler met with staff at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington last month to discuss a possible run for Congress next year against incumbent James Saxton, according to Democrats close to the five-term State Senator.
Despite his ambition and talent, Adler is a politician with limited political options — something that his friends say he finds exceptionally frustrating. There was a time when he was viewed as a rising star — he was elected to the Cherry Hill Township Council at age 29, ran for Congress at age 31 (he lost to Saxon by a 58%-39% margin), and at age 32, he won an upset victory for State Senator against a veteran Republican incumbent in a GOP-leaning district in 1991 — the year Democrats lost ten Senate seats and 21 Assembly seats.
After sixteen years in the Senate, Adler seems to have no place to go. He has nearly $200,000 is a federal campaign account he opened in 2003, when he said he would consider an ‘08 bid for U.S. Senate if Frank Lautenberg did not seek re-election. But now, Adler knows that won’t happen — if Lautenberg doesn’t run, another Camden County Democrat, Congressman Rob Andrews, will.
When he served as New Jersey Co-Chairman of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, some insiders thought the Harvard educated lawyer wanted to succeed Christopher Christie as U.S. Attorney, or join the administration in Washington. During the 2005 gubernatorial campaign, Democrat Jon Corzine told a Gannett editorial board that he was no inclined to appoint Adler as Attorney General. And in June, Christie called Adler a “third-rate bureaucrat” while speaking to reporters about Stuart Rabner’s nomination as Attorney General.
Despite his Cherry Hill base and fundraising prowess, Adler would face a tough campaign against the 64-year-old Saxton, who has served in Congress since 1984. Saxton was re-elected to a twelfth term in 2006 by a 58%-41% margin against Democrat Richard Sexton, a political unknown who spent just $161,186. That was Saxton’s worst showing since his race against Adler.
Saxton’s political career had some ups and downs in recent years: the House GOP leadership passed him over for Chairman of the House Resources Committee, in favor of a more conservative Congressman with less seniority, and the loss of majority control in the last election as reduced Saxton’s power in Washington. But he is now in line to become Chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee if Republicans win back control of the House next year, and has $1,334,599 in his campaign warchest.
Footnote: Adler met with the DCCC apparently without the knowledge of his own Chief of Staff, Robin Cohn. Asked to confirm if Adler is considering a bid for Congress, Cohn told PoliticsNJ.com: “I really have no idea.”