NJ-Senate: And Then There Was One
Disappointing campaign junkies everywhere, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) took himself out of contention for the Garden State Senate race in 2006 today, paving the way for a cleared primary field for newly appointed Sen. Bob Menendez (D).
Andrews, who has held New Jersey's 1st district seat since 1990, was considered a potential threat to Menendez due to his strong base in the southern part of the state. His decision not to seek a primary challenge and to endorse Menendez effectively ends talk of a serious primary race even though Rep. Frank Pallone (D) is still considering a bid. A three-way race between Menendez, Andrews and Pallone would have provided intrigue and perhaps a surprise nominee but a one-on-one contest between Menendez and Pallone is a major mismatch.
In an interview minutes ago, Andrews said his no-go decision was driven by a desire not to cost Democrats their chance at the Senate majority in November. "A primary would force the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] to spend resources in the fall that otherwise could be freed up to defeat Republicans across the country," Andrews said.
As for his own political future, Andrews said his "efforts to help Bob Menendez will further position me to be a candidate for statewide office in the near future."
Menendez was appointed to the Senate by his predecessor, Gov.-elect Jon Corzine (D), after Corzine beat back a challenge from businessman Doug Forrester (R). The seat was open after scandal-plagued Jim McGreevey (D) resigned his post in August 2004 and was succeeded by state Senate President Dick Codey (D), who served as acting Governor for the remainder of McGreevey's term.
Menendez, who will be formally sworn into the Senate on Wednesday, told The Fix today that he was preparing to raise and spend $20 million on the contest against state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R). (For The Fix's complete interview with Menendez -- including how he first learned he was the choice of Gov.-elect Corzine -- make sure to check this space on Wednesday.)
Republicans see New Jersey as one of their best pickup opportunities; Democrats point to Menendez's soon-to-be incumbency as well as the Democratic nature of the state when they argue the contest won't be as close as most observers think.
If Corzine's gubernatorial victory is a sign of things to come in New Jersey, expect this race to get very nasty, very quickly. Menendez, for the moment, is taking the high road. "If Republicans want to stay in the gutter, I'll leave them there," said Menendez Friday.
January 13, 2006; 1:48 PM ET
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