Widow Runs Against Congressman Who Unseated Husband

This year, Shelley Adler, the widow of the late Rep. John H. Adler (D-N.J.), is running for the seat that her late husband occupied from 2009 to 2011. That, in itself, isn’t too unusual. According to the U.S. House of Representatives website, 49 other congressional widows have been elected to the House or Senate seats once held by their husbands.

But only three widows – Reps. Ruth Hanna McCormick (R-Ill.), in 1931, Leonor K. Sullivan (D-Mo.), in 1953, and Nicola S. Tsongas (D-Mass.), in 2007 – have followed their late husbands into Congress without directly succeeding them. And Adler is vying for a history-making distinction: If she wins, she’d be the first widow ever to unseat the incumbent who defeated her husband – in this case, Republican John Runyan. John Adler died just three months after leaving Congress, after undergoing emergency heart surgery.

Adler, though, faces a hard-fought battle with Runyan, a former NFL player with strong Tea Party support, as this New York Times article about the race describes. The Burlington County Times reports that Medicare has featured prominently as an issue in the race. Adler has run TV ads attacking Runyan for voting for the Medicare proposals advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the GOP vice-presidental candidate. In turn, Runyan’s campaign spokesman, Chris Russell, has accused Adler of distorting Runyan’s position, and says that the incumbent “voted to protect Medicare for current seniors and preserve it for future generations.”

-Patrick J. Kiger