Hispanic Caucus funds ad for Rep. Menendez amid mudslinging primary

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm is opening its wallet for Rep. Rob Menendez (D-N.J.), the only Latino House member from New Jersey, as he fights a primary challenge from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

Bold PAC, the campaign group, dropped $500,000 to fund a TV ad for Menendez in English and in Spanish. The amount of Bold PAC’s independent expenditure, the first of the 2024 cycle, has not previously been reported.

“As the only Latino Member of Congress representing New Jersey, we are proud to launch our 2024 independent expenditure efforts backing Rob Menendez in his re-election,” said Bold PAC Chair Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.).

The ad focuses on Menendez’s economic record, though the race so far has been defined by mudslinging.

Bhalla has placed strong emphasis on Menendez’s relationship with his father, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is on trial for corruption.

The elder Menendez’s trial kicked off jury selection Monday.

But the younger Menendez has deflected those accusations as attempts to blame the son for the alleged sins of the father, and by shining a light on Bhalla’s own ethics record.

Bhalla is currently suspended as a lawyer in New York and was admonished by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in 2018 over management of third-party funds.

Menendez’s campaign maintains a website titled “Better Not Call Ravi,” listing corruption allegations against Bhalla, styled after the TV drama “Better Call Saul.”

But in a debate earlier this month, both candidates took time to discuss policy issues after trading corruption accusations.

The Hill has reached out to Bhalla’s campaign for comment on this story.

The race in some ways is a test of Menendez’s record and his ability to win an election not buttressed by his father, but in spite of his legal woes.

In 2022, Menendez ran for the House seat held by former Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and once held by Sen. Menendez, who at the time was at the height of his political power, viewed by many as the elder statesman of the CHC.

But Rep. Menendez’s name became a liability just months into his first term, as the Department of Justice announced charges against the senator and his wife.

Still, Menendez has been a workhorse for the CHC, which did not expect to lose a senator and to have to defend the House seat.

If Menendez keeps his job, he will be New Jersey’s only federally elected Latino in 2025.

“Bold PAC has been around for more than two decades. Our mission is to get Latinos elected and reelected to Congress. We were very proud to stand with Rob in his first election,” said Bold PAC Executive Director Victoria McGroary.

“Of course, we support strong Latino candidates and members everywhere because Latinos are everywhere and deserve to be represented everywhere. But it does, of course, matter in particular in places like New Jersey, and in places like the eighth district that are Latino majority, it’s very important to ensure that we are defending the Latino voices and the Latino representation that they have in Congress.”

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