On Monday, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who is currently on trial for 16 federal corruption counts, filed to run for reelection as an Independent in New Jersey’s Tuesday primary, potentially jeopardizing Democrats secure hold on the seat.

In March, Menendez announced that he would not pursue reelection as a Democrat for the seat he has occupied since 2006, saying that he is “hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election.”

According to the New Jersey Division of Elections, Menendez submitted his Independent candidacy with 2,565 petition signatures, surpassing the requirement of 800. However, Democrats or other parties have the opportunity to challenge these signatures, with a deadline set of June 10.

While Menendez said he plans to run if exonerated, it remains unclear whether he’ll remove his name from the ballot if he’s convicted.

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Throughout his tenure, Menendez had faced numerous corruption accusations and investigations, including charges filed against him in 2017, which resulted in a hung jury.

Presently, Menendez and his wife and co-defendant Nadine Menendez are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, including cash, gold bars and a Mercedez-Benz, allegedly in exchange for political favors to various businessmen, including representatives of the Egyptian and Qatari governments.

Menendez specifically faces charges of bribery, obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Although Menendez has encountered corruption accusations in the past, the current case appears much stronger than the 2017 one. Following the 2017 mistrial, the Democratic Party remained supportive, helping him win reelection in 2018 by an 11-point margin.

Despite experiencing a decline in Democratic support, recent federal court rulings have raised the bar for convicting public officials of corruption. Moreover, the judge presiding over his trial has deemed certain crucial evidence against the senator inadmissible under the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause.

Menendez is anticipated to encounter numerous challenges in his reelection campaign, including formidable opposition, declining poll ratings and a diminishing fundraising pool, with a significant portion allocated to covering his legal defense expenses.

In the Tuesday primary, Rep. Andy Kim (D-New Jersey) secured the Democratic nominee for Menendez’s Senate seat.

“Americans are fed up with politicians putting their own personal benefit ahead of what’s right for the country,” Kim said in a statement, “Everyone knows Bob Menendez isn’t running for the people of New Jersey, he’s doing it for himself. It’s beyond time for change and I’m stepping up to restore integrity back into the U.S. Senate.”

In the Republican nomination fight, hotelier Curtis Bashaw won the nomination against Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

New Jersey has yet to elect an Independent candidate to a statewide office. The last Independent contender ran in 2009, securing less than 6% of the vote.

A Menendez candidacy improves Republicans’ odds of winning the New Jersey Senate seat, something not seen since 1972.


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