Menendez files independent bid for Senate seat

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) filed to run for another term in the Senate as an independent on Monday, as his federal bribery trial continues.

Menendez had announced in March that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for his Senate seat but left the door open to possibly pursuing an independent run. The longtime senator is facing numerous charges in a wide-ranging corruption case in which prosecutors allege he and his wife accepted bribes in exchange for favors for three businessmen.

Menendez, who has pleaded not guilty, submitted his paperwork for the independent bid one day before New Jersey’s Tuesday deadline for candidates.

The New Jersey Globe was the first to report earlier Monday that Menendez was planning to file to run as an independent.

Menendez seemed likely to seek and win another term in office as the Democratic nominee heading into the fall but received widespread calls to resign from his office after he and his wife were accused of accepting more than $600,000 in bribes from the businessmen.

Prosecutors allege that after receiving the payments, Menendez placed pressure on state officials to slow down or end criminal investigations against the businessmen and their allies. They also accuse him of using his position to act as an agent on behalf of the Egyptian government.

Multiple superseding indictments have been filed against Menendez since the initial one, adding other charges to the case. Menendez has refused calls to step down but stepped aside from his role as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez said in a statement posted on his campaign’s X account that he submitted well above the threshold of signatures required to launch an independent run and reiterated his innocence in the case against him.

“The people of this great state deserve a leader in Washington with a proven track record of fighting tooth and nail to deliver results, and I intend to keep doing so as an independent Democrat,” he said. “It displeases me to have to go this route, thanks to overzealous prosecutors, but I will do what must be done to continue to uphold my oath of office for my constituents.”

He pointed to accomplishments he has made while in office, including securing millions of dollars for the state to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy and for infrastructure projects and working to lower the costs of prescription drugs.

“Simply put, I have delivered for New Jersey and will continue to do so,” Menendez said. “I look forward to putting these accusations behind me and getting back to work for my constituents.”

The Democratic nominee for the Senate seat appears likely to be Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who announced his run for the seat soon after Menendez was charged. Kim, who is not facing major opposition for the nomination, said upon launching his bid that seeing the accusations against Menendez contributed to his decision to run.

Kim denounced Menendez’s bid in a post Monday on social platform X, accusing him of only seeking reelection for his own self-interest.

“Everyone knows Bob Menendez isn’t running for NJ families. He’s running for himself,” Kim said. “People are fed up with politicians putting their own personal benefit ahead of what’s right for the country. It’s beyond time for change. I’m stepping up to restore integrity back to the Senate.”

If Kim wins the Democratic nomination, he will be the favorite to win the seat in the heavily Democratic-leaning state. But Menendez in the race as a third candidate along with the Republican nominee could throw an unexpected curveball in the race.

One poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University from April showed Kim’s lead over either of the two Republicans most likely to win the GOP nomination narrows slightly with Menendez included as a third option. Menendez’s support is only in the single digits.

Kim was still ahead in the polls, but Menendez did make it tighter, with the incumbent’s support coming from some Hispanic and Black voters.

But Menendez’s filing does not definitively mean he will be on the ballot in November. He has said he would only run if found not guilty in his trial, which has been ongoing for a few weeks and may continue for at least a few more.

This story was updated at 10:21 a.m. on June 4.

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