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Menendez not running in New Jersey Democratic primary

Indicted senator may seek reelection as independent if ‘exonerated’ this summer

Facing a criminal trial this year, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Thursday he will not run in New Jersey’s Democratic primary in June but may run as an independent in November if “exonerated“ this summer.
Facing a criminal trial this year, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Thursday he will not run in New Jersey’s Democratic primary in June but may run as an independent in November if “exonerated“ this summer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Bob Menendez, facing federal bribery charges, said he will not be a candidate in New Jersey’s Democratic primary for Senate this year, but that he hopes to run as an independent.

“I will not file for the Democratic primary this June,” Menendez said in a nine-and-a-half minute video posted online Thursday. “I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election.”

Menendez, who gave up his role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after being indicted on charges that include that he acted as a foreign agent, has maintained his innocence while resisting calls from fellow Democrats in his home state and in the Senate to resign. 

“I know many of you are hurt and disappointed in me with the accusations that I’m facing. Believe me, I am disappointed at the false accusations as well,” Menendez said in the video. “All I can ask of you is to withhold judgment until justice takes place.”

Menendez’s trial is set to begin May 6, a month before New Jersey’s primary elections are scheduled for June 4. The deadline to file to run is next week.

He was first indicted, alongside his wife Nadine and three New Jersey businessmen, in September on charges that allege the couple “accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence, to protect and to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.” Since then prosecutors have added additional charges in superseding indictments, including allegations that he accepted gifts in exchange for actions to benefit the Qatari government. Earlier this month, prosecutors unveiled another superseding indictment adding obstruction of justice charges. 

The indictment caused a sensation by including photos of cash and gold bars found in the senator’s home, allegedly the result of payoffs from the businessmen.

One of his co-defendants has pleaded guilty and reportedly is cooperating with prosecutors.

Rep. Andy Kim, a three-term member of the House, announced a bid to take Menendez on within days of the indictment. He and Tammy Murphy, the state’s first lady, are the leading candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.

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