1st Congressional District Remains Without Representative

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

An office park in Haddon Heights.

The signage says “Office of Congressman Rob Andrews,” but Andrews resigned six months ago.

Inside six people work on constituent matters, though one had his computer open to a solitaire game.

With Andrews gone, the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives runs the district office and did not allow our camera in.

New Jersey’s two U.S. senators have taken over legislative matters Andrews was involved in.

With a special election not until November, voters in the district are without representation for nine months, and they seem to care.

“I think that’s a problem. Mr. Andrews has been removed and someone should be assigned to that post until the next election. We need to have someone in the position,” said Cherry Hill resident Ron Green.

“I agree with that. That’s totally too long to go without somebody to represent everybody around here. It shouldn’t have to wait until November. If he resigned in February then there should have been somebody under him to step up,” said Marlton resident Laura Roselli.

It’s the governor who decides when to hold an election to fill a congressional vacancy.

Last year, in the Booker-Lonegan Senate race to fill a vacancy created by the death of Frank Lautenberg, Christie called a special primary within two months and a general election two months later.

When critics said he was doing it to protect his own reelection in November at considerable public expense, he said representation in Congress is more important than money.

His office today declined to comment on what’s different this year.

Asked if he thinks nine months is too long, Andrews in an email expressed gratitude to his voters and the remaining staff “and with respect to the timing of the election, I would defer to the governor and his judgment on those matters.”

The Paulsboro train derailment is one piece of unfinished Andrews business.

Former Mayor John Burzichelli says Andrews was working on a bill to require independent inspection of rail switches and bridges.

“Where I live in Paulsboro, Congressman Andrews who was a friend for many years by the way — was deep in at the first steps of rail safety, which we experienced first hand when railroads don’t do what they have to do. So that ball has to be picked up and parts had been picked p by Senator Menendez on the Senate side. So if you had a particular issue you had someone working on, you’ll notice their absence,” Burzichelli said.

The November race features Democrat Donald Norcross and Republican Gary Cobb.

The first district congressional seat will be filled soon enough, but for nine months, the energy that used to come out of this office when it belonged to Rob Andrews has died way down.