Senator Robert Menendez hasn’t had the easiest couple of years. The Democrat has held his seat since 2007. He’s been involved in New Jersey politics since the 1980’s – having been mayor of Union City and served in the state legislature. However, Menendez has been working since 2015 with a federal investigation looming over him.
The Senator was officially indicted on April 2015 on 14 counts related to conspiracy, bribery, fraud, and making false statements.
Prosecutors say Menendez sold his office to a top contributor in exchange for luxury travel and more than $700,000 in contributions to super PACs and other funds that helped him get reelected in 2012.
Menendez allegedly tried to pressure federal officials to boost the business interests of co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor who faces a separate indictment accusing him of Medicare fraud. Menendez is accused of pressuring Medicare officials about a disputed regulation Melgen used to bill the government for multiple doses of an expensive eye drug drawn from what were sold as single-use vials.
His lawyers are currently preparing to ask the Supreme Court to throw out much of the indictment. If unsuccessful, Menendez will likely face a trial next fall – as the 2018 campaigns begin to take shape.
Menendez is one of the many Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018. One would surmise that such a serious investigation by federal authorities would be cause for alarm.
New Jersey Democrats aren’t sweating it.
“I expect him to be there,” said Democrat Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. “He’s still a strong leader, and we still respect him and know he looks out for the state of New Jersey.”
“I don’t see any slippage at all,” said Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell.
Congressman Donald Norcross recently said Menendez is doing an “excellent” job.
To be fair, any Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey would likely win the general with not much more to their resume than an active pulse. Garden State voters haven’t sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since they elected Clifford Case to a fourth term in 1972. That’s an amazing length of time, especially in American politics.
But as the 2016 presidential election proved… conventional wisdom doesn’t hold much weight anymore. We'll be watching closely to see which New Jersey Republicans step up to the plate in 2018.