DemDaily: An Embattled Menendez Makes His Move

June 6, 2024

Embattled New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D), who announced in March that he would not run for a fourth term as a Democrat, filed to run for reelection as an Independent on Monday -- adding to an already dramatic contest overshadowed by federal corruption charges against the three-term incumbent.

Declining to run as a Democrat while under indictment, Menendez said in March that he hoped to be cleared of the charges by the summer so he could " pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election."

Menendez's surprise announcement came the day before New Jersey's June 4 primary and the filing deadline for the election. The Senator submitted three times the necessary 800 petition signatures to secure a place on The Garden State ballot.

In the general election, Menendez will face three-term Congressman Andy Kim, who swept the Democratic primary Tuesday with 75% of the vote, and GOP nominee Curtis Bashaw, a wealthy hotel developer. New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican to the US Senate since 1972.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Menendez grew up in a tenement building in Union City in Hudson County, an urban stronghold across the river from New York City that is notorious for its machine politics.

He graduated high school as president of his class and, at age 19, won a seat on the Union City Board of Education as an ally of Mayor William Vincent Musto, his mentor.

While serving as secretary to the school board, he discovered that a construction company owned by a mob hitman was looting the city with the connivance of the Party Boss and board members. He would later testify against Musto in a 1982 federal racketeering trial – where he wore a bulletproof vest to court.

The first in his family to attend college, Menendez went on to graduate from Rutgers School of Law, and in 1986, at age 32, took on his hometown Mayor and the party establishment, winning on an anti-corruption platform.

Elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1987, he served as both Mayor and State Representative until his 1991 election to the State Senate.

In 1992, Menendez was elected to the newly redistricted, majority-Latino 13th Congressional District seat and was reelected every two years with at least 71% of the vote until his 2006 appointment to the United States Senate to fill the seat vacated by Jon Corzine, who had been elected Governor.

He was elected to a full six-year term that November and was reelected in 2012 by 20% and again in 2018 by 12% -- despite a 2015 indictment on charges of conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud involving a donor. Those charges were dropped in January 2018 after a mistrial.

He was, however, "severely admonished" in April 2018 by the Senate Ethics Committee for inappropriately accepting gifts from a supporter whose interests Menendez advanced.

powerful figure in Congress, Menendez chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 2013 to 2015, and again from 2021 to 2023. He also wielded considerable influence as a member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee.

As the most senior Hispanic in Congress, Menendez was one of the most respected national leaders and advocates for Latino causes.

In June 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided Menendez’s home and found $480,000 in cash and more than $100,000 worth of gold bars, as well as a luxury convertible and home furnishings that were allegedly given to Senator Menendez and his wife Nadine as bribes.

The couple was indicted by a grand jury in September 2023. The court found that the gifts were the product of "a corrupt relationship" between Bob and Nadine Menendez, and three New Jersey businessmen "in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt."

In September 2023, both Bob and Nadine Menendez were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years; and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

While Nadine Menendez's trial has been postponed until July due to her recovery from breast cancer surgery, Bob Menendez's corruption trial began in Manhattan Federal Court on May 13.

Menendez and two of the three indicted New Jersey businessmen pled not guilty and are being tried together, while the third co-conspirator has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution.

Potential witnesses include at least seven US Senators, two former Secretaries of State and one political consultant. Presiding Judge Sidney H. Stein said the trial is expected to last up to seven weeks.

New Jersey’s deadline for Independent candidates to withdraw from the ballot is August 16. In filing as an Independent, Menendez has bought himself time to stay in the race until the outcome of the trial is determined, hoping that he is exonerated and can be reelected.

“Thanks to overzealous prosecutors, I will do what must be done to continue to uphold my oath of office for my constituents...I have committed no crime. I am more confident than ever that New Jerseyans and the rest of the American public will see me exonerated of what I am being accused of, and I will be re-elected to the Senate once again.” - Senator Bob Menendez 6/3/24

DemList will keep you informed

DemListConnecting You to The Party
Connecting You to Each Other

Kimberly Scott

SignUp for the DemDaily column on the issues, politics and the players

Follow DemList on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Sources: New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Wiki, ABC News, Politico, CNN, CBS, New Jersey Globe, Washington Post, FoxNews

Related posts

DemDaily: The Fighting Freshman

DemDaily: The Fighting Freshman

March 23, 2023 The US House races of 2024 are taking shape, beginning with the most vulnerable of its new members. Going into the 2024 elections, Republicans control the House 222 to...