First District Republican congressional nominee Dale Glading is not angry that he doesn’t know who his opponent will be in the fall. But he’s upset at what he sees as a slight to the district’s voters by the powerful local Democratic Party.
Glading, the founder and head of a non-denominational prison ministry, is officially running against attorney Camille Andrews, who took over the candidacy from her husband, Rep. Rob Andrews, when he decided to run a primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. But Camille Andrews has acknowledged that she’ll step down if asked by party leadership, although there’s a possibility that she’ll stay in the race.
“The voters in the first congressional district are being shortchanged,” said Glading. “Mrs. Andrews, who is the placeholder, I don’t believe to be a serious candidate, because she’s not acknowledging – let alone accepting – our debate invitations.”
Camille Andrews has ignored numerous overtures for debates, both from Glading and from third parties. She addressed the issue for the first time in a Philadelphia Inquirer article yesterday, saying “debates don't happen in the summer months."
If Glading’s complaint sounds familiar, it’s because Rob Andrews said something similar about Frank Lautenberg’s hesitance to debate him before the primary, calling it “outright disrespectful to the people of our state” back in May.
“Apparently Mrs. Andrews does not read her husband’s campaign literature, nor does the rest of the Democratic machine in South Jersey,” said Glading.
Calling Glading a long-shot in this ultra-Democratic, working-class district would be an understatement. No Republican has held the seat since 1974, and it’s been redistricted several times to make it even safer for Democrats since then.
The Democrats, of course, know that they have nothing to gain by even acknowledging Glading’s challenges – or his very being, for that matter.
Benjamin Parvey, who manages Camille Andrews's campaign, said that Democrats will debate Glading in the fall, but that a summer debate would be "premature."
"If the candidate is Mrs. Andrews, she looks forward to a debate of the serious issues facing the First District and this nation," he said. "If the candidate is another selected representative of the Democratic party, Ms. Andrews is confident that that representative will be a Democrat who will help move the nation away from the failed policies of the Bush administration."
Glading said that he has not had to retune his campaign strategy in the wake of Rob Andrews’s departure from the seat. While Andrews has repeatedly denied that he will jump back in to run for his congressional seat, Glading isn't ready to believe him.
“We’re still under the assumption that we could very well be running against Congressman Andrews. Certainly in the last nine months he has a track record of not keeping his own word,” he said. “He lied to Sen. Lautenberg when he promised to support him in the primary, lied when he promised not to make age an issue, and there’s no reason we should take him at his word that he will not run again for his seat.”
And so, aside from complaining about Camille Andrews’s reluctance to debate, Glading has continued to focus his campaign against Rob Andrews. Most recently, he hit him on his decision to join a House caucus to promote equal rights for the gay community.
Glading said his complaint was not about equal rights for LBGT people, but about of priorities.
“I’m hearing people complaining about high property taxes and gasoline prices at the pump, neither of which Rob Andrews is doing anything about. My family is making the same decisions that each and every other family has to make,” he said.
Rob Andrews, the son of a ship yard worker and the first member of his family to graduate from college, has lost touch with the working class voters of his district, according to Glading, who characterizes himself as a man with a family living paycheck to paycheck.
But unlikely as it seems that voters in, say, Camden will choose a conservative Republican, Glading said that he has faith that they’ll realize that they're taken for granted by Democrats. And while he hasn’t hit the street in Camden yet, he plans to.
“The (Democrats) are of the opinion in their arrogance that they can run whoever they want to, even at the last moment, and believe that the people of our district will just, like lambs to the slaughter, continue to pull the Democratic lever,” he said. “I have more faith in voters of our district. I thin they do want real reform, and I’m the reform candidate.”