Sen. Bob Menendez Files for Reelection As Independent Amid Corruption Trial

AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

A New Jersey Democrat is a Democrat no more after filing to run as an independent.

Senator Bob Menendez, who is currently facing trial on major corruption charges, is adamant that he is going to run for reelection, despite the scandal. Recently, Menendez announced he would not be running in the Democratic Party primary.

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But he is still the incumbent, which is a natural advantage in most election cycles, and can definitely split the Democratic vote in the general election for senator, which is coming up in November.

Asked on his way into court Monday if he’s changing political parties, Menendez said in Spanish, “no, independent doesn’t mean I’m changing.”

Later Monday, Menendez told reporters who asked him about his run that he’d done a lot for the state of New Jersey, particularly during the pandemic and after Superstorm Sandy.

Menendez listed his party in documents filed with the state as “Menendez for Senate.”

The political stakes are high, given the Democrats’ narrow control in the Senate, where New Jersey is normally safely in Democratic hands. It’s unclear how much support Menendez could siphon from U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, who is in a favorable position to win the Democratic primary, which ends Tuesday. The GOP hasn’t won a U.S. Senate election in the state since 1972.

An indictment unveiled in September of 2023 revealed allegations that the senator and his wife, along with three businessmen - Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes - accepted substantial bribes. 

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In exchange, the senator allegedly used his power and influence as a United States lawmaker to protect and benefit the businessmen.

The senator, however, maintains his innocence.

In court, prosecutors have argued that Menendez sought to sell his office to enrich himself, helping business associate Wael Hana get a lucrative monopoly on certifying meat exports to Egypt as meeting Islamic guidelines, and assisting Fred Daibes with investments linked to a member of the Qatari royal family.

Menendez has denied there was any corrupt scheme. His attorneys said his conduct constituted carrying out diplomacy and working on behalf of constituents. The gold bars belonged to his wife, and the cash laying around his house was a longtime habit stemming from his parents’ escape from Communist Cuba, according to his attorney.

Daibes and Hana are on trial alongside Menendez. Nadine Menendez is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, the senator has said, and is expected to go on trial later this summer.

In a year when the Democrats are hoping to hold on to the Senate - a chamber in which they currently have a one-seat majority - Menendez's decision could complicate matters for his party. The GOP hasn't won that particular seat in 50 years, but scandal, economic woes, and a weak top of the ticket could pose a threat the Democrats haven't seen in decades.

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The New Jersey governor is almost certainly not winning friends within his own party over the decision, and a three-way race with the (allegedly) corrupt senator siphoning votes from his own party will only further alienate him from his former allies. But the race is just getting underway.

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