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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Joan E Greve in Washington

Bob Menendez: Democratic senator charged with bribery set to run as independent

Bob Menendez outside court in Manhattan earlier this month
Bob Menendez outside court in Manhattan earlier this month. Photograph: Alex Kent/AFP/Getty Images

Senator Bob Menendez has reportedly procured enough signatures to run for re-election as an independent, even while the incumbent Democrat faces bribery charges over his alleged work promoting the interests of the Egyptian government.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Menendez secured the 800 signatures needed by 4 June to appear on the November ballot, although the senator’s team hopes to collect as many as 10,000 signatures before the Tuesday deadline.

Menendez’s presence on the ballot could complicate Democrats’ efforts to hold on to the Senate seat, although Joe Biden won New Jersey by 16 points in 2020. New Jersey will hold its congressional primaries on Tuesday, and Congressman Andy Kim is expected to easily win the Democratic Senate primary. If Kim is victorious, he will face off against one of the four Republican Senate candidates in November.

“People are fed up with a broken political system that only benefits the well-off and well-connected and fuels corruption,” Anthony DeAngelo, senior adviser to Kim, said in a statement. “Voters deserve better, and they’ll have a chance to vote for change next week and this November.”

Menendez’s hopes for a victory in November appear bleak. A poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University last month showed Menendez receiving just 6% or 7% of the vote in hypothetical general election match-ups. But Menendez’s candidacy will allow him to fundraise for donations that can be used to help cover his lawyers’ bills, as campaign finance filings show the senator has already spent at least $2m on legal services.

The news of Menendez’s candidacy comes as his bribery trial, which began this month, continues to unfold in Manhattan. Menendez has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted bribes – including gold bars, a luxury car and almost half a million dollars in cash – as he promoted Egypt’s interests in his influential role as chair of the Senate foreign relations committee.

Following his indictment last year, Menendez stepped down as committee chair, but he has rejected demands for his resignation. More than 30 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, including fellow New Jerseyan Cory Booker, have now called on Menendez to resign.

Menendez has maintained his innocence, but in a video shared in March, he acknowledged that the legal turmoil would prevent him from seeking the Democratic nomination in New Jersey’s Senate race.

“Unfortunately the present accusations I am facing, of which I am innocent and will prove so, will not allow me to have that type of dialogue and debate with political opponents that have already made it the cornerstone of their campaign. New Jerseyans deserve better than that,” Menendez said.

“I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election.”

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