WASHINGTON — Rep. Robert E. Andrews insists that his resignation from Congress after more than two decades has nothing to do with a bleak outlook for Democratic chances of retaking the House or with an ethics probe into alleged misuse of his campaign funds.
“I love Congress, but I love my family more,” Andrews, who represents Southern New Jersey, said in an interview.
Today, Andrews announced at his Haddon Heights office that he would leave office Feb. 18 to lead the government relations practice of Dilworth Paxson, a law firm that once employed his wife and is run by partners who attended his wedding.
“It’s an offer that won’t be there at the end of my term,” said Andrews, who said he joined the firm, which has offices in Washington, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to “help my family be financially secure.”
Andrews has two college-age children, but the resignation also coincided with a sinking feeling among Democrats that the House is slipping out of reach. His announcement comes in the wake of the decision to retire by George Miller, D-Calif., another key ally of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
Andrews, who entered Congress in 1990 in a special election to replace Jim Florio, pointed out that he would “eventually” succeed Miller as chairman of the Education and Labor Committee in a Democrat-controlled chamber.
“I frankly would have benefited enormously from Democrats being back in the majority,” he said, adding that at 56, though, deciding to “stick it out until we get back into the majority” might cost him precious years in improving his family’s finances.
He cited his support for the Affordable Care Act as his proudest vote in the House but did not want to talk about the ethics probe into allegations that he used campaign funds for trips to California and Scotland.
“That had nothing to do with this decision,” he said. “I followed the rules and met the standards.” He added that “it’s not my place to say” whether the investigation would continue after his retirement.
Looking forward, Andrews said he would support as his replacement state Sen. Donald Norcross, the brother of the George Norcross, the state’s Democratic power broker and best man at Andrews’s wedding.
“He and I did talk about this,” Andrews said of his old friend.
Andrews waged unsuccessful campaigns for governor in 1997 and for the U.S. Senate in 2008, when he lost a statewide primary to the incumbent, the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg. He said he intended to leave politics, although adding, “You never rule anything out.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Andrews said his greatest regret in his congressional career was a vote against the family best positioned to return to the top of the Democratic Party’s power hierarchy.
“I voted against the Clinton economic plan in 1993,” he said. “I wish I had voted for it.”