New Jersey Democrats to Begin Ousting Bob Menendez


The Democratic primary for New Jersey’s Senate race is approaching, where voters will select their candidate to potentially replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in Congress.

However, this primary won’t necessarily remove Menendez, who is currently on trial for federal charges including public corruption, bribery, and acting as a foreign agent, from the general election ballot in November.

Even though the embattled senator did not enter the primary, he plans to run for reelection as an “independent” Democrat if he is acquitted.

The primary will allow Democrats to distance themselves from Menendez, as most Senate Democrats have urged him to resign. Stripped of his Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairmanship, Menendez still attends classified briefings on Capitol Hill, much to some Democratic colleagues’ dismay.

“It’ll make Menendez a dead breed, in many instances,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who has worked with former President Bill Clinton and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Sheinkopf pointed out that the Menendez name will persist in New Jersey politics, at least for now. Menendez’s son, Rep. Rob Menendez (D-NJ), is trying to retain his House seat amidst his father’s troubles.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) is expected to win the June 4 primary easily after Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, withdrew earlier. She stated in March that continuing her campaign would require a divisive and negative approach she was unwilling to take.

Kim faces two Democratic opponents: progressive activist Lawrence Hamm, who ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in 2020, and labor leader Patricia Campos Medina, who would be New Jersey’s first Latina in Congress.

Rep. Andy Kim talks to reporters at the Bergen County Democratic convention in Paramus, N.J., Monday, March 4, 2024. In New Jersey, the Senate seat held by Democrat Bob Menendez has become competitive because he was indicted last year on federal corruption charges. And so far, Andy Kim, a Democratic congressman who’s seeking the nomination, is winning some important support on the county level. Right now, he’s up against Tammy Murphy, a first-time candidate who’s married to the governor, Phil Murphy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Early voting starts on Wednesday. Kim is likely to win both the primary and the general election.

Sheinkopf hailed Kim as a “reformer” for his lawsuit to end New Jersey’s “county line” primary ballot system. A judge ruled in Kim’s favor this spring, deciding the controversial ballot design, which advantages party-backed candidates by strategically placing endorsed candidates together, will not be used in the June primary.

Menendez is accused of acting as a foreign agent for Egypt and Qatar and accepting bribes like gold bars and cash from two New Jersey businessmen. He is also charged with obstruction of justice, fraud, and extortion.

Menendez has denied any wrongdoing, blaming his wife, Nadine Menendez, who is also charged, and describing his actions as standard political business. His trial began on May 13.

The deadline for Menendez’s independent bid is fast approaching, requiring him to gather and file 800 signatures by the June 4 primary. He is currently working on this, according to the New Jersey Globe. The status of his effort and the number of gathered signatures remain unclear.

Menendez being off the ballot this fall would relieve Senate Democrats, many of whom have been ready to cut ties with him politically. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the only leadership member who hasn’t called for his resignation but expressed his disapproval, saying he was “deeply disappointed and disturbed” by the allegations.

“We all know that for senators there is a much, much higher standard, and clearly, when you read the indictment, Sen. Menendez fell way, way below that standard,” Schumer told reporters in September.

When asked by the Truth Voices earlier this month whether Menendez should be expelled if convicted, Schumer refrained from commenting.

“He’s on trial,” Schumer said. “So I’m not going to comment.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) has been adamant about Menendez’s expulsion, but he remains the only Democrat to openly advocate for it.

Kim could potentially find himself in the Senate sooner than expected. If Menendez, 70, resigns or is expelled, Kim could be appointed by the governor to fill the vacancy until the election.

However, if convicted, Menendez could theoretically continue to serve in the Senate, cast votes, and even be reelected in November.

Ramsey Touchberry
Ramsey Touchberry
Ramsey Touchberry is a Capitol Hill Reporter focusing on energy and environment. Previously, Ramsey covered Congress for Newsweek and was a multimedia reporter at a local NPR and PBS affiliate in Florida. A native of the Sunshine State, Ramsey graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in broadcast and digital journalism.

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