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Menendez files to run again for Senate as an independent

Senator on trial for corruption charges did not run in this week’s Democratic primary

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has filed to run for reelection as an independent while he battles a criminal indictment on federal charges including bribery.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has filed to run for reelection as an independent while he battles a criminal indictment on federal charges including bribery. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Bob Menendez, who is on trial in Manhattan federal court facing corruption charges, will run for reelection as an independent.

Menendez filed to run in the November election as an independent on Monday, the day before the state’s Democratic primary and the deadline to get on the ballot this fall. Menendez said in March that he wouldn’t seek his party’s nomination, but that he hoped to run as an “independent Democrat” if exonerated.

Menendez, along with his wife and three New Jersey businessmen, was charged with bribery, corruption and acting as a foreign agent. His trial began its fourth week on Monday, although his wife, Nadine Menendez, isn’t standing trial until later this year because of a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Rep. Andy Kim is favored to win the Democratic nomination for the seat Menendez holds on Tuesday. He launched his campaign the day after charges against Menendez were unveiled last year as Democrats in the state and the Senate called for Menendez to resign. Eventually, he rallied grassroots support for his campaign, and his chief rival for the nomination, Tammy Murphy, whose husband is Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, dropped out of the race ahead of the filing deadline for the primary. 

Uphill climb

Winning a fourth full term would be an uphill climb for Menendez, whose approval ratings dropped after the charges against him were filed last year. But continuing his campaign could also allow Menendez to tap into campaign funds to help pay for legal expenses.

A onetime chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez stepped aside from that role after the charges against him were unveiled last year. It is the second time he was indicted on bribery and corruption charges in 10 years. His 2017 trial ended with a mistrial, which was followed by a partial acquittal by the trial judge. The Department of Justice dismissed the remaining charges before this 2018 reelection. Menendez was later “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee. 

Kim, a three-term House member, warned that the senator’s entrance into the race as an independent could help Republicans.

“Menendez entering the race means this is now a 3-way election that could hand Republicans the Senate majority,” Kim said Monday in a fundraising email. New Jersey last elected a Republican to the Senate in 1972.

Four Republicans are running in the Tuesday primary. Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, while hotelier Curtis Bashaw is the other leading candidate.

Still, national Republicans have so far not made New Jersey a focal point in their national strategy to flip the Senate, which Democrats now control 51-49. 

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