Change of heart for Rep. Andrews After saying he won't run for reelection, he's expected to announce today that he will. Andrews may stand for reelection

Posted: September 04, 2008

Once again, U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews seems to have had a change of heart.

The Camden County Democrat, after saying for months that he would not seek reelection, is expected to announce today that he will run again for the House seat he has held for 18 years, most likely replacing his wife on the ballot.

Political insiders and party leaders, as well as former Andrews campaign spokesman Mike Murphy, said yesterday that Andrews wanted to keep his spot in Congress.

"It is my distinct impression that he's going to seek his reelection to his congressional seat in the First District," Murphy said.

Andrews, 51, promised to leave Congress in the heat of a bitter and losing primary battle against U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).

"Win or lose, I'm not running for Congress. I'm going to be a senator next year, God and the voters willing," Andrews said April 7 - five days after surprising the political community and challenging Lautenberg.

Even as recently as late June, when his supporters were spreading stories that Andrews was getting "pressure" from Democrats to keep his House seat, he said: "I'm really humbled and flattered by the nice things people have to say about me. I've said what I'm going to say about this. I've made my decision clear."

But last month, he showed up in Denver at the Democratic National Convention and gave a rousing speech at a New Jersey delegates' breakfast. The passion of the speech in support of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama had more than one observer believing that Andrews was back in the game.

"I genuinely sensed that he had become more open to the possibility of seeking and retaining the seat," said Murphy.

Andrews has scheduled a news conference for 10 this morning in Camden to make a "major announcement." His spokesman, Bill Caruso, declined to comment further.

Late yesterday, Susan Evans, spokeswoman for the New Jersey secretary of state, said that office had not received the necessary paperwork removing the current Democratic nominee - Andrews' wife - from the ballot. Nominees have until Sept. 14 to withdraw from a race, and their respective parties have until Sept. 17 to name a replacement.

Camille Spinello Andrews has been on the ballot as a placeholder candidate, waiting for the party to anoint a successor to Andrews in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Robert E. Andrews drew a lot of shots on the campaign trail for that move, with Lautenberg saying Camille Andrews' candidacy didn't pass the "smell test" and implying that Andrews was holding on to the seat in case he lost.

Yesterday, Lautenberg's campaign declined to comment on word that Andrews wanted to keep his job representing the South Jersey congressional district, which runs through Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties.

But the GOP nominee for the House seat had plenty to say.

Dale Glading of Barrington issued a statement saying he was "outraged" that Andrews planned to seek reelection.

"A man's word should be his bond, and Rob should be ashamed of himself for breaking his promise not to reenter the race," he said.

Analysts, though, said yesterday that there was little downside for Andrews.

"In his district, he's awfully popular. If anyone can get away with it, he can," said Ben Dworkin, a Rider University political scientist. He even doubted it would hurt Andrews if he sought another statewide seat. Andrews lost the Democratic primary for governor in 1997.

Sharon Shulman, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, agreed. But she noted that Andrews has "fences to mend. There was certainly a rift created when he ran, but in politics, people have short memories."

Andrews' first apparent change of heart came April 2, when he jumped into the Senate primary against Lautenberg after joining with fellow Democratic New Jersey congressmen to support Lautenberg in his reelection bid.

He lost to Lautenberg by 2-1 - 61 percent to 34 percent.

Contact staff writer Cynthia Burton at 856-779-3858 or cburton@phillynews.com.

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