Bob Menendez Bows Out of Dem Primary—but Says He May Run as Independent

Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz
Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) revealed in a nine-minute video announcement on Thursday that he plans to run for Senate again this fall—but not as a Democrat.

Instead, he suggested he hopes to run as an “Independent Democrat” candidate, but only if he’s exonerated on federal bribery charges that have roiled his office and personal life in recent months.

New Jersey’s filing deadline to run in the state’s Democratic primary was Monday, and Menendez declined to put his name in the mix this time.

Menendez has repeatedly ignored calls for his resignation after he was indicted on allegations he accepted gifts—including gold bars—from the Egyptian government in return for favorable policy for the Middle Eastern country.

The senator, 70, stands to be spend years behind bars if convicted, but he’s maintained his innocence and has tried to project confidence that he’ll soon be off the hook.

“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,” he said. “New Jerseyans deserve better than that.”

He added, “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.”

Menendez will have until June 4, the same day as the state’s primary, to gather at least 800 signatures to file for re-election an independent candidate.

Feds Tack on New Charges to Menendez’s Bribery Indictment

In the meantime, he’ll be permitted to continue raising money for his campaign, which can in turn be used to cover legal fees in his criminal trial. Menendez used $2.3 million in campaign funds to cover legal fees during the last three months of 2023, which covers the most recent data available in campaign finance reports.

Menendez’ announcement adds a new headache for New Jersey’s Democratic Party, which is already facing a Sentae race that includes two prominent Democrats—the state’s first lady Tammy Murphy and Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ).

A criminal trial may make Menendez’ bid for Senate moot, however. He was handed yet another loss last week, when a judge rejected his long-shot claim of legislative immunity against some of the charges he faces.

His trial is scheduled to begin on May 6.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who has been outspoken in his criticism of Menendez since news of the alleged bribery and corruption came to light, poked fun at the video Thursday, writing in a post on X, “dibs on your parking space.”

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