Andrews Unfazed by N.J. 'Power Structure'
In the days since Rep. Rob Andrews announced that he would challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey's Democratic Senate primary, the party establishment in the Garden State has done everything it can to make clear that the congressman should rethink that decision.
"An Andrews candidacy will no doubt drain resources from a strong general election campaign against a Republican nominee who will be a vote for more of the disastrous policies of the last seven years," Andrews's fellow New Jersey House members wrote in a joint statement released on Tuesday. "Congressman Andrews pointlessly staying in this race is exactly what the Republicans desperately need and doubtless want."
Then in announcing a D.C. fundraiser via e-mail, Lautenberg chief of staff Dan Katz wrote, "Senators [Harry] Reid and [Chuck] Schumer will be co-hosting the event, as will all of the real Democrats in the NJ Congressional delegation: Reps. [Frank] Pallone, [Donald] Payne, [Bill] Pascrell, [Steve] Rothman, [Rush] Holt and [Albio] Sires." (The emphasis is The Fix's, not Katz's). The fundraiser, which Katz touts in the e-mail as the main D.C. event for Lautenberg in the primary, will be held April 30 at the Frederick Douglass Museum on Capitol Hill.
Despite the resentments of his colleagues and many within the political establishment in the state, Andrews insisted in an interview with The Fix yesterday that he will remain in the race and go on to win it because of just the sort of high-handed tactics being used against him.
"It's evidence of how well we're doing," Andrews said of the criticism from his colleagues. "The New Jersey power structure doesn't take well to actual elections."
As for allegations that he was trying to keep open the option of running for his House seat by installing his wife as the replacement candidate, Andrews offered a seemingly conclusive statement about his political future. "I am committed to the Senate race," he said. "Win or lose, I am not going to run for the House."
Andrews also sought to draw a parallel between the task he faces and the challenge that was before Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) at the start of the presidential race. Both men, Andrews said, ran despite a massive amount of institutional support for their opponents. The insinuation is obvious; if Obama can defeat the vaunted Clinton machine, then Andrews can overcome the machine politics of New Jersey.
Still, history doesn't suggest Andrews has much of a chance, as very few senators have lost in party primaries over the last five decades. (A full list of senators who lost party primaries over the last fifty years is available after the jump -- major kudos to Post researcher Alice Crites for gathering the names.)
The most recent example is in 2006 when Connecticut's Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont -- largely due to the incumbent's outspoken support for the war in Iraq. Despite the loss, Lieberman ran as an independent for reelection in the fall and won handily. (Lieberman caucuses with Senate Democrats.)
Four year earlier, New Hampshire's Bob Smith lost to then Rep. John Sununu in the Republican primary. Again, however, external factors played a huge role as Smith had left the GOP in a very public way in the summer of 1999 and run for president as an independent. Although Smith returned to the Republican fold to claim the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee following Sen. John Chafee's (R) death that fall, the damage was done and Sununu cruised to an eight-point win.
Aside from those two races, only two other Senate incumbents have been defeated in primary races since 1980 -- Kansas's Sheila Frahm (R) in 1996 (she was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat after he resigned to run full-time for the White House) and Illinois's Alan Dixon (D) in 1992.
Andrews remains unbowed. "All of the conventional rules have been turned on their heads," he maintained. In 55 days, we'll know if he's right.
Senators Defeated in Party Primaries since 1970
* Joe Liebeman (D-Ct.) defeated by Ned Lamont (2006)
* Bob Smith (R-N.H.) defeated by John Sununu (2002)
* Sheila Frahm (R-Kans.) defeated by Sam Brownback (1996)
* Alan Dixon (D-Ill.) defeated by Carol Moseley Braun (1992)
* Donald Stewart (D-Ala.) defeated by Jim Folsom Jr. (1980)
* Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) defeated by Clark Grueining (1980)
* Dick Stone (D-Fla.) defeated by Bill Gunter (1980)
* Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) defeated by Al D'Amato (1980)
* Maryon Allen (D-Ala.) defeated by Donald Stewart (1978)
* Paul Hatfield (D-Mont.) defeated by Max Baucus (1978)
* Clifford Case (R-N.J.) defeated by Jeffrey Bell (1978)
* J.W. Fulbright (D-Ark.) defeated by Dale Bumpers (1974)
* Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) defeated by John Glenn (1974)
* David Gambrell (D-Ga.) defeated by Sam Nunn (1972)
* Everett Jordan (D-N.C.) defeated by Nick Galifianakis (1972)
* Ralph Yarborough (D-Texas) defeated by Lloyd Bentsen (1970)
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