Tag Archive: Rob Andrews

Lessons not learned: Sen. Menendez and NJ Politicians Breaking Badly

It is too early to determine the fate of U. S. Senator Bob Menendez who CNN reported will be indicted on charges related to favors he provided to his largest campaign contributor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Sen. Menendez has responded, “Let me be very clear – very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law… I am not going anywhere.” Whether these known favors involve only bending the rules or actually breaking the rules is not yet established. Nonetheless, his actions appear far less ethical than what we should expect.

Unfortunately, this news about a New Jersey U. S. Senator is all too familiar as he would be the fourth in a generation to run afoul of the law. Similarly New Jersey congressmen have created their own problems. Hudson County, the political base of Sen. Menendez, has had its share of politicians breaking badly. Now our governor is under federal investigation with an uncertain future. Recent NJ history has provided plenty of warnings about the dangers of bending and breaking rules – warnings which all too frequently have not been heeded.  

2013-2014 Congressional Casualty List – NJ

Roll Call published a Casualty List today for the 113th Congress, those members who for various reasons won’t be returning to Congress in January. They did some math and figure that’s 1,254 years of experience total that won’t be back. That’s a lot of incumbency, and the circumstances of the New Jersey four speak to how hard it is to overcome the campaign advantages of that incumbency, which include the powerful trappings of a federal seat, general goodwill towards local representatives (even where Congress itself is disparaged), and the freebie franking privilege which so many members of Congress use to send self-congratulatory mail that walks and talks like campaign lit but the taxpayers get the bill.

Of the NJ four leaving office, none were beaten by upstart challengers, to the eternal frustrations especially of those who rallied behind NJ-5’s Roy Cho (against the should-be vulnerable pre-Tea Party winger Scott Garrett) and NJ-3’s Aimee Belgard (whose fortunes rose then fell in the open seat Tom MacArthur bought for himself). All four new members – Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Don Norcross and incoming House members Bonnie Watson Coleman and Tom MacArthur – take seats that were vacated by retirement, resignation or death.  

Keystone Kops and Keystone Pipeline Gain New Adherents

The saga of the Keystone Kops like the Keystone Pipeline is one of unsuccessful, seemingly incompetent people repeatedly failing in a venture which in this case increases carbon emissions, could cause significant environmental damage and is still under study. For the ninth time the House voted on Friday to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline – 252 to 161.The roll call for our New Jersey Representatives was not what you might expect.

Republicans in the NJ delegation all voted YES to approve Keystone including Rep. Jon Runyan (R) who continues in office until January when his successor Tom MacArthur (R) is sworn in. Among the Democratic delegation the newly minted Don Norcross (replacing the already departed Rob Andrews) and Albio Sires also both voted YES. Donald Payne did not vote. The three remaining Democrats voted NO including Rush Holt who in January will be succeeded by Bonnie Watson Coleman (D).

Norcross said “I am proud to stand with members of both parties to support this project that can transform the American economy and put our nation back on the path of lasting growth.” As a candidate his platform supported “Job creation and Economic Development,” but did not mention energy policy. He calls himself an “Advocate for South Jersey,” but while the pipeline has national consequences its impact on South Jersey is considerably less significant. When he was sworn in he said he would “specifically like to serve on the House Committee of Energy and Commerce.” He might be welcomed by the Republican majority on the committee but his vote seems out of sync with his Democratic colleagues.

Rep. Albio Sires’ most recent website posting is a statement on Veterans Day, but there is no mention as to why he supported the pipeline. In fact in the past he supported an amendment to a bill (which did not pass) that would have required “a study of the vulnerabilities of the Keystone XL pipeline to a terrorist attack.”

As Roll Call points out, “the bill would still need 60-votes in the Democratic Senate before heading to President Barack Obama’s desk – a tall, but perhaps achievable order.” The House vote did not reach the veto-proof level. President Obama has never expressed support for the pipeline, but he has not said definitively that he will veto it.  

Election November 4, 2014

FYI – We are also monitoring results on Twitter @BlueJersey.

Revised through early Wednesday morning:

WINNERS:

U. S. Senate  

Booker (D)

House of Representatives

Norcross (D-01), LoBiondo (R-02), MacArthur (R-03), Smith (R-04), Garrett (R-05), Pallone (D-06), Lance (R-07), Sires (D-08), Pascrell (D-09), Payne (D-10), Frelinghuysen (R-11), Coleman (D-12)

Republicans gain control of the U. S. Senate.  Republicans 52, Democrats 44, Independent 1 and still undecided 3.

WE WILL HAVE SIX DEMOCRATS AND SIX REPUBLICANS IN OUR DELEGATION (no change in the balance). We are proud of having the first NJ African-American woman congressperson Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12). The other new members of our delegation are Donald Norcross (D-01) and Tom MacArthur(R-03).

Below the fold: Updated Election results

plus:

  • Each NJ Congressional District: Who won in the prior 2012 election and by how many points over the challenger, and the most recent poll where available, plus individual winner projections.

  •  The one U. S. Senate race: 2013 results, the most recent poll, and projected winner. (No surprise here.)

  •  National U.S. Senate: Current Senate party membership split, number necessary for Republicans to take control, with an overall projection.

  • National House of Representatives: Current House party membership split, and an overall winner projection.

  •  National Governors: Current party membership split, and overall projection.    

  • And Now There Are Three

    In the upcoming N. J. elections for the U. S. House of Representatives there are now three vacant seats. These Representatives have announced their resignations: Rob Andrews (D-CD1) first elected 1990, Rush Holt (D-CD12) first elected in 1998, and Jon Runyan (R-CD3) first elected 2010. Soon Democrats may take over a Republican seat, retain two Democratic seats with new members, and add two women to our delegation.

    This is an unusual opportunity. In several recent past election there have been no vacancies and all incumbents have been re-elected. In a few past elections there has been one vacancy. For two vacancies you have to go back to 2008 – Mike Ferguson (R) succeeded by Leonard Lance (R) and Jim Saxton (R) succeeded by John Adler (D) – and 1996, Robert Torricelli (D) succeeded by Steve Rothman (D) and Dick Zimmer (R) succeeded by Mike Pappas (R). You have to go back to 1992 when there were three or more vacancies. In that election (22 years ago) there were actually four vacancies (Dwyer, Rinaldo, Roe, and Guarini.)

    See more about this opportunity below the fold.

    Thank You, Rob Andrews!

    Almost lost amid all the noise and bustle here in NJ as the drama, the virtual acrid smell of large scale corruption and malfeasance surrounding the Christie Administration slowly intensifies, was the unexpected retirement of a champion of LGBT rights and most significantly transgender rights in Congress  which was abruptly announced on Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

    Rob Andrews, the 12 term congressman from South Jersey, announced that he would resign from Congress and leave office on Feb 18 to lead the government relations practice of a Philadelphia law firm. Andrews was a Vice- Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus. It was in his role as Chair of the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Sub-Committee that he stepped up, kept his word to me and other Trans leaders and presided over the historic Congressional hearings, which, in my opinion, made it impossible for Democrats to forward an Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) that was not trans-inclusive!

    A little history is in order.

    Reps. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced the Equality Act of 1974, which sought to ban discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals, unmarried persons, and women in employment, housing, and public accommodations . It was the first-ever national piece of proposed legislation that would end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the United States. It did not, however, include transgender people. Unfortunately, the Equality Act of 1974 never earned enough support to make it out of committee in the House, and it was never introduced in the Senate. Similar bills and efforts also failed in the late 1970s.

    While the Equality Act of 1974 was broad, ENDA is narrowly focused on a single issue: employment discrimination. Lawmakers first introduced ENDA in 1994. That version of the law would have made it illegal to discriminate against employees in all aspects of employment based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. Both the House and Senate versions of ENDA died in committee that year, a story that would be repeated for the next several years (though in 1996 ENDA received a floor vote in the Senate but failed by a one-vote margin). After 1996 a version of ENDA was introduced in every session of Congress except the 109th.

    On April 24, 2007 members of Congress introduced HR 2015 the first version of ENDA that included discrimination prohibitions on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. History will record that this inclusive version of ENDA died in Committee with 185 sponsors and that on September 27, 2007 prime sponsor Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) made a second attempt at moving the bill through, HR. 3685, this time without the provisions protecting transgender workers from discrimination (nicknamed SPLENDA for being a light version or imitation of the real bill).

    On November 7, 2007 the House passed this non-inclusive ENDA by a vote of 235 to 184. The Senate version was never taken up or referred to a Committee, due to the exclusion of gender identity from Rep. Frank’s bill (We have to thank people like the late Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey who stated that he would only support an ENDA that was trans inclusive) and the acknowledged fact that President George W Bush had expressly stated that he would veto any ENDA bill thus making it an exercise in futility.

    Let history show that by giving up on the inclusive ENDA, splitting the T from the LGB, a barely repaired schism within the LGBT community was re-opened, with HRC, the gay rights 800 pound gorilla abruptly reversing course from their own  stated public policy by standing with Barney Frank and Speaker Pelosi, while just about every other LGBT organization, led by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, rallied behind Tammy Baldwin to fight for transgender inclusion. Barney Frank then introducing two bills on the same day September 27, 2007, HR 3685 ENDA as it has historically existed, banning discrimination on sexual orientation and HR 3686 ENDA with transgender protections to that basic scheme. He stated, “Passing ENDA in part and then moving on to add transgender provisions when we can is clearly preferable”. The congressman from Massachusetts was saying, lets protect the gays and we will come right back for the transpeople “when we can”.

    “When we can”, can be a long time!  For example, in 1989, Massachusetts prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in credit, public and private employment, union practices, housing, and public accommodations. 22 years later Massachusetts finally passed a law prohibiting discrimination for almost, but not all of the aforementioned categories. Maybe you can also sell transpeople a bridge?

    Barney Frank envisioned that Congressman Andrew’s Education and Labor subcommittee would hold hearings on his transgender only bill HR3686 (which I will refer to as Barney’s GENDA)  to “focus exclusively on transgender issues, to give Members a chance to meet transgender people, to understand who they really are, and to deal with the fears that exist.”  But Barney’s GENDA was anathema to the transgender community.

    Having a relationship with Rob Andrews, I was able to communicate the disappointment that we had for his support of the gay only ENDA and his sponsorship Barney’s GENDA. In fact, his New Jersey colleague Rush Holt, bucked Pelosi and Frank and voted against the bad ENDA! I stressed that we wanted and needed hearings to educate America about the rampant and widespread discrimination, and specific employment discrimination in our country but that those hearings could not be connected at all to HR3686 which in itself was created from the history of trans discrimination.

    He “got it”, immediately. We next met in February 2008 at a “Hillary” Primary victory party at the Skylark Diner in Edison NJ where he confirmed all would be a “go”!  In fact, no mention was ever made of Barney’s GENDA at those hearings. The Republican ranking member did make an indirect reference to the legislation in a question, but that question was unanswered!

    Rob kept his word and always made note with pride of the historical significance of those hearings in the summer of 2008.  Whenever I brought a group of transpeople to the Hill to lobby, Rob’s office was always a stop, not only to visit a friend, but to show our folks how comfortable and natural and genuinely interested he was in person when meeting with a diverse group of constituents.  He had many contacts on the “other” side of the aisle and was always willing to reach out to them for our legislation. I can’t help but wonder if he had been the Prime sponsor of ENDA in 2007 or even in 2009 if it would have been a done deal!

    ENDA 2007 HR2015 was introduced April 24, 2007 with 59 sponsors. A week before I got a call from one of Barney’s senior aides that he had under 30 sponsors and wanted to go in with at least 60 in this first ever trans inclusive ENDA.  At the time I was on the Board of National Stonewall Democrats and we put our political folks into legislative advocate mode and brought in at least 20 more sponsors. In the middle of May, I traveled to DC to lobby for ENDA with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) as well as meeting up with a smaller group of advocates from NTAC (National Transgender Advocacy Coalition). It was a week of much LGBT activity in the Beltway … but amid all the enthusiasm was a sour note from some of the NTAC folks … news that the Democratic Black Caucus would not support the trans inclusive ENDA. Ironically, a similar message from two entirely different sources, both sworn to secrecy, came to me the next day.  OK, I said to myself, you know that there is a problem… go out and address it. Fix it! You’ve got HRC and all the other organizations, you’ve got the resources … you know there is a problem … do it!

    In early September, Joe Solmonese, President of HRC, addressed participants at Southern Comfort , perhaps the largest transgender conference in America, explicitly telling those gathered that HRC would not support a non-inclusive ENDA. Within 2 weeks HRC flipped and supported the gay only version. My words to describe the events are not for publication.

    I’m going to end this blog on a positive note.

    First Congressman Andrew’s Historic Hearings in 2008

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    See the 4:30 mark at    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    After Chairman Andrews acknowledges our Jersey group, he goes after the Harvard educated lawyer who represents the religious haters and utterly destroys his legal arguments … it is so sweet watching him at work!

    NJ’s late Congressman Donald Payne had made some remarks after voting for the Non inclusive ENDA in Nov 2007 that upset many of us in the trans community.  Garden State Equality objected and Chair Steven Goldstein, myself as Vice-Chair, and a small group of Trans Board Members and supporters met with him to educate and explain. He certainly understood discrimination and he quickly “got it”.

    See the 6:00 mark, Cong Payne sees me and remarks that I had “harassed” him with a smile.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    The odds on favorite to win Andrews’ seat in the next election is current State Senator Donald Norcross. NJ’s Congressional District #1 is heavily Democratic and Sen Norcross has already been endorsed by almost all the South Jersey politicos, labor leaders, our new Speaker as well as U.S. Senator Cory Booker.  Donald will have big shoes to fill, but based on a brief talk with him, I’m encouraged that he can and we will encourage him to try and succeed.

    Meanwhile to Congressman Rob Andrews, the Trans community says, “Thank you!”

    Priorities

    According to published reports, Congressman Rob Andrews is resigning immediately because his income is not enough to pay for the education of his two daughters, one a college undergraduate and another a medical student.

    Whether you believe Andrews’ explanation or whether you think his resignation is a result of his ethical lapses is not the point of this post. What amazes me is that a family with a combined annual income well north of a half million dollars feels that that’s not enough to send their kids to college.

    Politicians like to talk about investment. Education is one of the best investments in our future. There’s no reason why America should not offer a free undergraduate education to every resident. And with the pending doctor shortage, there’s no reason why medical education shouldn’t be highly subsidized and incentivized for those who qualify academically.

    Today, we’re subsidizing oil companies that dirty our air and water. Through our tax policies, we subsidize Wall Street banksters who ship jobs offshore. This is nuts. Let’s get back to basics and ensure that the next generation of Americans gets the education they need to compete in a global economy and to improve the quality of life at home. And not just for the children of wealthy politicians.

    The Norcrossed Voters of District 1

    promoted by Rosi

    The rollout of Donald Norcross’ congressional campaign signifies everything that’s wrong with New Jersey’s boss-dominated politics.

    Shortly after the nearly simultaneous announcements of Congressman Rob Andrews’ retirement and State Senator Norcross’ anointment as Andrews’ successor, the Norcross machine published a list of 167 elected and civic personalities that have “endorsed” the candidate.

    To me, it’s incredible that such a list could be compiled in such a short time. Have you ever tried to phone or e-mail an elected official directly? Not all of them are easy to get hold of. Yet, in the space of a few days, the Norcross campaign was able to obtain endorsements from each one of them.

    There are only two possible conclusions I can draw from this. Either the Norcross-for-Andrews coup was in the planning stages for a longer time than advertised, or many of the endorsements were made unilaterally by the Norcross campaign, knowing that no South Jersey Democrat would dare to buck the machine.

    It’s a given that a George Norcross minion would replace Andrews. But shouldn’t the voters of South Jersey be given a choice? What about a well-qualified woman like Pamela Lampitt? A relentless public servant like Troy Singleton? What about Dana Redd or Louis Greenwald? Are these folks less competent than Donald to represent the district in Congress? There are lots of good Norcrosscrats in the District. It’s bad enough that voters must choose from within the cabal. But at least give them that choice.

    Via Washington Post: Never heard of George Norcross? Here’s why you need to.

    I spent part of my afternoon tweeting and emailing an MSNBC anchor who’s done a particularly good job demystifying the web of Gov. Christie’s scandals, to convince him it’s time George Norcross got the kind of national examination his impact on New Jersey politics deserves.

    As I was doing that, the Washington Post was busy posting this: Never heard of George Norcross? Here’s why you need to.  Quoting:

    Almost as swiftly as word surfaced Tuesday that Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) plans to resign from Congress, a replacement was all but anointed. If he wins, it will be a boon to one of the most powerful figures in politics most people have probably never heard of.

    That replacement, as you knew the same moment you knew Andrews is exiting, is Donald Norcross. As we talked about today, Donald N. has had the kind of charmed life in politics that politicians operating in the world of meritocracy never get to have. Which is not to say Norcross shouldn’t have the seat, merely that he should compete for it.

    As Sean Sullivan writes in WaPo, if Donald’s in, it further solidifies his brother’s power. And backup for Donald’s chances coronation came quickly; Sullivan joking (not really) that he might just have known Andrews’ resignation was coming, linking to PolitickerNJ’s running list of pols going on record today for Donald. (yes, mainly from Planet Norcross).

    WaPo notes the superPAC tied to Norcross that played heavily in NJ legislative races last year. And the not-insignificant fact of Norcross’ ownership of the biggest paper in Andrews’ CD. Then this:

    If you’re wondering why that could matter in a House special election, bear in mind that Norcross controls the endorsement process for the paper. Of course, given the rallying effect behind his brother, the endorsement may be immaterial.  Which, of course, simply reflects the reach and power of George Norcross.