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Kim launches primary challenge after Menendez refuses to quit

‘NJ deserves better,’ third-term House Democrat says

Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J.,launched a challenge to Sen. Bob Menendez on Saturday after the senior senator said he would not resign following a bribery indictment.
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J.,launched a challenge to Sen. Bob Menendez on Saturday after the senior senator said he would not resign following a bribery indictment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim launched a primary challenge to Sen. Bob Menendez on Saturday as more Democrats joined the call for the senior Democratic senator to resign after an indictment on federal bribery charges.

“After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said ‘I am not going anywhere.’ As a result, I feel compelled to run against him. Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity,” Kim said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible as bribes in exchange for Menendez using his position as senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to aid three New Jersey businessmen who were also charged, and to benefit the Egyptian government. 

Menendez, who won his third full term in 2018 after an earlier bribery charge did not result in a conviction, dismissed calls to resign Friday from Kim, the state’s Democratic governor, the state party chairman and others in the House delegation, saying they were “rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat.” 

Kim, a third-term Democrat, had $882,000 in his campaign account at the end of June, according to Federal Election Commission filings. He won reelection in the 3rd District by 11.9 percentage points last year. Menendez had $7.8 million on hand as of June 30.

Kim flipped the 3rd District in 2018, ousting Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur by less than 2 points in a district that was redrawn after the 2020 census. A Rhodes Scholar, he previously worked as an aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the State Department. In the House, he serves on the Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Select China Competition committees.

Kim was also photographed picking up trash in the Capitol rotunda after the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump trying to stop the counting of electoral votes certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win on Jan. 6, 2021.  

New Jersey’s party system allows county organizations to give selected candidates preferential placement on the ballot, known as the line. That could complicate Menendez’s campaign if he remains in the race and the state’s Democratic officials continue to oppose his candidacy. 

The calls for resignation continued Saturday, with New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer calling for Menendez to step aside, along with Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman, the first Democrat in the chamber to do so.

“Senator Menendez should resign. He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence under our system, but he is not entitled to continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”

The calls from fellow Democrats to quickly resign stand in marked contrast to Menendez’s indictment in 2015, when there was near-unanimous support from the New Jersey Democratic establishment for Menendez to stay in office and fight. At the time, however, Republican Chris Christie was governor and could have appointed a Republican to the Senate seat.

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