Speculation was rampant in New Jersey this weekend over the fate of Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez, now the 13th sitting senator in history to be indicted while in office.
No sooner had the indictment for bribery come down last week than the New Jerseyan declared "I'm not going anywhere" and refused calls from fellow Democrats ranging from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to New York Rep. Alexandria "AOC" Ocasio-Cortez that he resign his seat.
On Monday, a defiant Menendez announced he would seek reelection in 2024. His announcement came two days after Rep. Andy Kim, onetime National Security Council staffer under former President Barack Obama, announced he would challenge Menendez in the Democratic primary next June.
The first Asian American U.S. Representative from New Jersey, Kim, 41, is likely to have substantial financial backing from fellow Asian Americans nationwide. An intriguing question that is sure to be asked is whether Obama, who is personally close to Kim, will endorse his onetime staffer against Menendez, to whom he was not close.
As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez particularly upset the 44th president in 2015 by opposing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the official name of the Iran nuclear agreement later scuttled by then-President Donald Trump.
Also in the Democratic Senate primary is wealthy real estate investor Kyle Jasey, son of State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.
As adamant as he is about seeking a fourth term under indictment, Menendez, 69, did relinquish his Foreign Relations Committee gavel — at least for the time being.
Should the embattled senator change his mind and decide to resign, Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy would almost certainly appoint a stopgap senator rather than choose from the candidates in what will evolve into a crowded primary. One intriguing scenario floated around Trenton this weekend was that Murphy would name financier-wife Tammy to fill out the remainder of a resigned Menendez's term.
"He loves nobody more than the image he sees in the mirror or the one peaking over his shoulder when he looks in the mirror," is one Garden State conservative put it.
(The last time a spousal Senate appointment was made was in 1972, when Louisiana's then-Democrat Gov. Edwin Edwards named wife Elaine to fill out the remaining months in the term of the late Democrat Sen. Allen J. Ellender).
Republicans have not elected a senator from New Jersey since 1972, when the late Sen. Clifford Case won his fourth term. Their likely nominee appears to be Christine Serrano Glassner, mayor of Mendham Borough (population: 6,014) and wife of two-time Trump campaign operative Michael Glassner.
One-time Bush administration official Serrano Glassner is considered a conservative, but has focused her early fire on the air of corruption surrounding Menendez. Amid reports that an FBI raid on the senator's home unearthed valuable gold bars that he alleged received for helping his wife's Egyptian business associates, Glassner branded him "Gold Bar Bob."
Actually, Democrat Menendez earned the niche of "13th indicted senator" back in 2015 when he was indicted on federal corruption charges. His trial ended in a hung jury three years later and he was reelected with more than 55 percent of the vote over multi-millionaire Bob Hugin (who spent an estimated $36 million).
But with this latest indictment, there are signs that voters are growing tired of Menendez and the controversy he brings. Even before the indictment, a Monmouth University poll showed his approval rating at 36 percent statewide and 45 percent disapproving of his performance.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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