Andrews mum on Zimmer’s debate challenges to Lautenberg

Those who followed the Democratic U.S. Senate primary heard it again and again: U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews complaining that incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg wouldn’t engage him in enough debates.

He got two – both shortly before election day.

Now, Republican Senate candidate Dick Zimmer is sounding a similar theme, complaining that Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) won’t live up to the standard he set in 1982, when he wanted to debate Republican rival Millicent Fenwick in all 21 counties.

But don’t expect Andrews (D-Haddon Heights) to back up Zimmer on this one.

“The Congressman supports Senator Lautenberg and has no further comment on the campaign,” said Andrews Chief of Staff Bill Caruso.

Andrews is facing a debate challenge in his own district from long-shot Republican rival DaleGlading, ever since earlier this month, when he decided to seek a 10th term.

Immediately after Andrews reneged on his pledge not to seek another term in the House and was given back the ballot line by the district’s county committee members, Glading sent him a letter asking for six debates. Andrews told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he would accept them. But the Glading letter has not yet been answered, according to Glading Campaign Manager Tim Saler.

Caruso said that Andrews will agree to debate Glading – under one condition.

“Rep. Andrews has agreed to debate his opponent at forums organized and sponsored by legitimate and unbiased organizations,” he said.

Saler, however, noted that attempts to debate Camille Andrews – who held the ballot position for her husband while he ran for Senate – were rebuffed because she felt that the specific church where the forums were to take place was not an impartial setting.

“I’m interested in Rob Andrews’ definition of an unbiased and non-partisan organization. The implication was made in Camille Andrews campaign that a church setting was not,” he said. “But it would appear that Barack Obama would disagree by going to the Saddleback Church to participate in a forum hosted by Rick Warren.”

Saler said that he’s in contact with several organizations that may be interested in hosting debates.

Andrews mum on Zimmer’s debate challenges to Lautenberg