NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Back in 2006, we saw an interesting development in the state of Hawaii: A centrist Democratic Congressman decided to challenge a longstanding more progressive Democratic Senator in the party primary. In that case, the then 82-year old Daniel Akaka defeated the significantly younger and more conservative Ed Case by about 9 points, 54.2 percent to 45 percent. Now are we seeing the same situation again? Take a gander at this news:

Rob Andrews, a ten-term Congressman from Camden County, will challenge incumbent Frank Lautenberg in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Andrews, 50, said on Monday that he was considering a campaign against the 84-year-old four-term Senator.

A race between Lautenberg and Andrews is one that presents some real differences about what it means to be a Democrat, a choice between someone unafraid to stand up for the progressive ideal and someone who can be goaded by the right into making some questionable decisions. For instance, take a look at this picture:

To the far right, you'll notice Andrews standing with George W. Bush upon the signing the the authorization of military force against Iraq. At the time, Andrews wrote, "Yesterday, I joined with President Bush and a bipartisan coalition of Senators and House members to announce that we have approved the final text of the Iraq Resolution... I am honored to have worked closely with the President to develop this bipartisan proposal because I believe that Saddam Hussein poses a very clear and present threat to the entire world."

In the time since that vote, Andrews has voted for other whoppers as well. For instance, he twice voted with the President to continue the Iraq War (Roll Call 425, 2007; Roll Call 220, 2005); voted against prescription drug reimportation (Roll Call 806, 2007); voted in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts (Roll Call 308, 2007); and voted for a constitutional amendment banning flag burning (Roll Call 296 2005). More recently, just in February, Andrews voted President Bush's position on FISA, opposing an extension (Roll Call 54, 2008).

In contrast to all of this "centrism" from Andrews, Lautenberg comes in with the highest Progressive Punch score of any Senator this Congress. Although it's an apples to oranges comparison (because votes in the House are different from those in the Senate), Lautenberg comes in with a 93.29 lifetime score compared with Andrews' 80.69 lifetime score. (Blue Jersey has even more of a comparison of their votes, if you're interested.)

So with all of this in mind, will the voters in New Jersey do what the voters in Hawaii did two years ago: Say no to a challenge to an older more progressive Senator by a younger more centrist Congressman? We'll have to wait to see how everything plays out. But if you were to believe early polling on the race from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, it looks like New Jersey Democrats are more than happy to stay with Lautenberg rather than move to Andrews -- to the tune of 57 percent to 22 percent, to be exact.

Tags: new jersey, NJ-Sen, Senate 2008 (all tags)



Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Yeah! Can't be supporting anyone who voted for the Iraq War!

Oh... uh... never mind...

by Lettuce 2008-04-03 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Also, you neglect to mention that Lautenberg has Bush-level approval ratings. (maybe higher-level Bush ratings, in the 30s. Rassmussen levels. But still...)

New Jersey will elect some pretty lousy Dems into office. I'm not saying Lautenberg is one of them, but there is a reason he's not so much beloved here anymore. Luckily, the GOP is fielding a giant barge of animal feces, that has molded together to form several different candidates, each more dung-covered than the last.

But, it's worth mentioning why Lautenberg has real problems... not just some age difference between the two candidates.

by Lettuce 2008-04-03 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

If it's worth mentioning the reasons, perhaps you could... mention them?

by Steve M 2008-04-03 07:29AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Well, I stand corrected. In the March Rasmussen poll, he was at 44% to his unknown challengers 36% or so. Given that Lautenberg's is a New Jersey icon, people seemed pretty tired of him.

But they had a poll out yesterday that put Lautenberg at 54% to his opponants... as usual, a real GOP might be able to wrest this New Jersey seat, but there isn't one, so they won't.

New Jersey dems really ought to get their act together soon. They're not going to be up against the Rotten Apple Gang forever.

by Lettuce 2008-04-03 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Take a wild guess about what drags down Democratic politicians' ratings in NJ.  It's exactly that so many of them are still the Andrews type- tied to machines, which means they are tied much more to pork and patronage and going along with the center than representing the real interests and real views of their districts.
by killjoy 2008-04-03 11:33AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

All I see in that picture is assholes.

by Sir Hadrian 2008-04-03 07:32AM | 0 recs

While I think this is an apt analogy and also expect Andrews to lose, it's worth noting that the poll you link to shows that most Democrats have no idea who Andrews is.  

by John DE 2008-04-03 07:36AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

I live in Philly, across the river from Andrew's district. I've followed Andrew's career for years. In a liberal district, he's a Lieberman type, working with Repubs as much as he works with Democrats, mainly to get relatively conservative legislation through. He was a big proponent of Clinton's welfare legislation, has been a fervent supporter of the Iraqi misadventure, big believer in tax cuts (including the well to do). About a dozen years ago, when coming under attack from NJ's liberals, he threatened to switch over to the Repub Party. To have him win the Democratic nomination for the senate seat would be a major slap in the face for the NJ progressive community.

by carter1 2008-04-03 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

One big difference.  Case had more money than Akaka with deep family resources (his brother is Steve Case of AOL fame) while Lautenberg has the big money edge here (founder and long-time CEO of payroll giant ADP).

A lot of incredibly stupid Jersey pols seem to be using Andrews (who is tainted by his ties to the Norcross machine) as an opportunity to do a take over at the local/county level.  I think these guys way over rate themselves.  In Essex (the biggest vote county for Democrats), cable TV personality Steve Adubato is taking on Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former gov/state senate president Richard Codey. Is the big mouth kidding?  Codey will eat him and his egotistical bs for lunch.

What's stupid is Lautenberg is a one termer.  If Andrews is elected, he'll be there for three or four terms.  

The one difference is that super conservative Andrews is using warmed over Obama rhetoric against Lautenberg: change, leadership, new generation, etc.  I don't think it will play here and I'd love to see Andrews skinned alive.  He's way too conservative for my Jersey tastes.

Politicker NJ is comparing this to the upset of Clifford Case in the Republican primary in 1978.  Casem as a Republican, was attacked from the right: a winning hand in a GOP primary even in Jersey (see Bret Schundler).  Democrats attacking from the right?  Not a winner by any means.

Look for Lautenberg to outspend Andrews by a huge margin.  Look for him, if possible, to try to drape both Bush and Jim Florio around Andrews neck as well as Camden boss George Norcross.  Florio is the ex-Jersey Governor who came from Camden County who installed a state income tax and id it gracelessly.  

by David Kowalski 2008-04-03 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen

CENT ONE: That's Richard Gephart standing in front of Andrews in the picture. Not exactly a conservative Bushits mouth-breather.

CENT TWO: With up to four competitive GOP-held House seats in New Jersey, it seems unfortunate to me to distract people from our pickup opportunities and force resources into our safe Senate hold and 1st district hold. Lautenberg and Andrews are both neither outstanding nor bad enough to warrant replacement, and wise New Jersey Democrats would do well to re-elect them both to their current seats and work on picking up some Gooper House seats instead.

Lautenberg too old? He can still vote, can't he? Did Republicans worry about Strom Thurmond being too old when he ran for his 4,000th six-year term at an age usually seen only by tortoises?

by admiralnaismith 2008-04-03 08:09AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen

He can still VOTE, but he won't run again in 2014.  We need to take advantage of the favorable political climate in 2008.  This is the year for an open seat race.  It is as safe as an open seat race could get.  Andrews's Camden County district as well.  That will NEVER go Republican, and especially not this year.

by NJIndependent 2008-04-03 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

As a resident of hawaii, i would just like to point out that Case was the ultimate DINO, and only ran as a democrat because of the states predominant party having been democratic for a very long time.

by lanikai 2008-04-03 08:15AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

And ultimately as a result we got a much better Democrat in Case's old seat, Mazie Hirono.  We should try to make sure that happens in Andrews' seat as well.

by lorax 2008-04-03 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

I'm voting against Lautenberg in the primary on the age issue alone.  This is an overwhelmingly Democratic year and the NJ GOP has NOBODY as a challenger.  Lautenberg won't be running again in 2014 (without being too morbid, he'll be 91 by then - he may not even make it that far).  NOW is the chance to install a younger Democrat that would fare better as an incumbent if the political climate were different in 2014 than in an open seat race.  While I wish that the challenger were Rush Holt instead of Rob Andrews, now is the time for this change, not 2014.

by NJIndependent 2008-04-03 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

I wonder what the legal consequences would be if my company based its hiring decisions on that sort of logic.

In my view, the best way to work towards a progressive majority is to avoid helping conservative Democrats get elected and become entrenched.  Yes, it's possible that the political landscape will have changed by 2014 and we'll say "wow, it's a pity Andrews is so conservative, but at least we have a Dem in that seat."  But I think it's overly pessimistic to start applying Nebraska-type logic to New Jersey based on a worst-case scenario for 6 years from now.

by Steve M 2008-04-03 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

And what are the odds that an 84 year old guy would be applying for a job at your company?  If this were the corporate world, Lautenberg would still be retired.

by NJIndependent 2008-04-03 06:53PM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

I dunno, what are the odds that an Eskimo would apply to my company?  I'm not sure what the odds have to do with the concept that you shouldn't discriminate.

There are lots of employers who would love to ditch their older employees so they could get a young guy in there and train him for the long term.  that might be in their business interest, but we make it illegal for a reason.

Regardless, the fact that Andrews is so non-progressive makes this a no-brainer in my view.    A lot of stuff will come up for a vote in the next 6 years where we'll want Lautenberg and not Andrews, and on top of that you're taking away any possibility of a progressive holding the seat for a long time.  It's not worth it just to purchase insurance against the possibility that we may be looking to cling to the seat at all costs in 2014.

by Steve M 2008-04-04 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Lautenberg is apparently in pretty dang good health and considered quite smart.  And the Senate is by definition a place for old folks whose task amounts to deciding which option is the least stupid thing to do.

Of course, then there's ObamaLogic, where as long as person claims to be a Democrat and is resentful of the anyone who was anybody during the Nineties they're good enough.

by killjoy 2008-04-03 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

LOL.  So it's Obama's fault?  Your name is very appropriate...

by NJIndependent 2008-04-03 06:53PM | 0 recs
Curious about one vote

So I have a question about Lautenberg. I stumbled upon the roll call vote today for Bill Clinton's landmark 1993 Budget Plan that passed the Senate on an Al Gore tiebreaker.  I noticed that Lautenberg voted against it, along with a few Dems (Shelby, Bryan, Johnston, Nunn, Boren) who tended to be conservative. Anyone know why Lautenberg opposed the Clinton budget plan?

by bschak 2008-04-03 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: NJ-Sen: A Replay of 2006's Akaka-Case Primary?

Andrews supported the extension.  

http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll054. xml  

Not that I think he would make a better Senator than Lautenberg.  I'm just saying.  

by NWGAdem 2008-04-15 11:14AM | 0 recs


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