How Menendez's Trial Could Turn New Jersey Red For The First Time In Decades

By Maria Angelino | Tuesday, 21 May 2024 03:00 PM
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As the November elections approach, the Republican Party is setting its sights on New Jersey's Senate seat, currently held by beleaguered Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

Menendez, who is presently embroiled in a corruption trial, is contemplating an independent campaign. However, early polls suggest that his Democratic colleague, Representative Andy Kim, is leading the race.

Senator Menendez is facing a trial following his indictment on corruption charges. The Department of Justice, in September, alleged that Menendez and his wife had accepted bribes from businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes. The bribes were allegedly in return for promoting their interests and those of the Egyptian government during Menendez's tenure as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Despite the charges, Menendez has entered a plea of not guilty and continues to assert his innocence. While he has chosen not to participate in the Democratic primary, he has not dismissed the possibility of an independent campaign. An April poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University suggested that if Menendez were to run independently, Kim's lead over his Republican opponents could diminish.

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Kim, who represents New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District, is currently viewed as the probable Democratic nominee. However, an independent campaign by Menendez could potentially divide the Democratic vote. This scenario could provide the Republican Party with a rare chance to secure a Senate seat in New Jersey, a state typically seen as a Democratic stronghold.

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The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, which surveyed 809 registered voters from April 1 to 8, showed Kim leading Republicans Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner and real-estate developer Curtis Bashaw. In a direct contest with Serrano Glassner, Kim led by 10 points, securing a 49-39 victory. Against Bashaw, Kim held a 9-point lead, winning 47-38, according to the poll.

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The poll also suggested that if Menendez were to run as an independent, Kim's lead could be reduced. In a three-way race, Kim would receive 45 percent of the vote, Serrano Glassner would receive 39 percent, and Menendez would receive 7 percent. If Bashaw were the Republican nominee, he would receive 38 percent, Kim would receive 44 percent, and Menendez would receive 6 percent of the vote.

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The Cook Political Report categorizes the race as "Solid Democrat," indicating that it is not expected to be competitive and is unlikely to become closely contested. New Jersey is generally Democratic-leaning, with candidate Joe Biden receiving 57 percent of the state's vote in 2020.

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The primary in the state is scheduled for June 4. Meanwhile, Menendez's corruption trial is set to enter its second week on May 20, and he continues to face criticism from his Democratic colleagues. CNN reported that some vulnerable Democratic senators have not ruled out the possibility of expelling Menendez from the Senate, depending on the trial's outcome.

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Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester told CNN, "I will cross that bridge when we get to it. We'll let the legal system do what it needs to do. As I've said every time, nobody is above the law. If he's found to be guilty, that does change the equation."

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