Dems Face Potential Fiasco In Deep Blue State Thanks To Indicted Senator’s Refusal To Stand Down

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s decision to run as an independent could set him up as a spoiler candidate for the state’s Democratic nominee, making the race for the Garden State’s senate seat considerably closer than it would otherwise be.

Menendez has held the senate seat as a Democrat since 2006, but recently filed to run as an independent during his ongoing federal corruption trial. Menendez’s candidacy as an independent has complicated matters for Democratic nominee Andy Kim and tightened the race for a seat that has remained blue for over 50 years.

“Absolutely Menendez could act as a spoiler,” Mike Duhaime, former chief strategist for Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaign, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “He was a trailblazer for Hispanic politicians for decades, and he has a loyal following in his base of Hudson County where Kim would rely on a massive margin. Menendez would cut into that.”

In a two-way race, Kim leads Republican nominee Curtis Bashaw by nine points, polling at 48% with Bashaw’s at 39%, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll from April. With Menendez included, Kim only leads by five points, polling at 44% compared to 39% for Bashaw. Menendez draws about 6% of the voters “who would otherwise go to Kim.”

In a three-way race against a hypothetical Republican and Democratic nominee, Menendez polls at only 9% as an independent candidate, according to an Emerson College Polling/PIX11/The Hill poll from March. Across New Jersey voters, 49% would support the Democratic nominee and 42% would support the Republican.

“With Joe Biden’s dismal approval ratings and Democrats in complete disarray, this is the best shot Republicans have to win a New Jersey U.S. Senate seat in a generation,” Jeanette Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Curtis Bashaw’s senate campaign, told the DCNF. “Polls show voters are tired of decades of corruption and machine politics served up by the New Jersey Democrats.”

Kim won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday by a landslide with 75% of the vote. Bashaw won the Republican nomination with 45% of the vote against a Trump-endorsed candidate, Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner, who got 38%.

Menendez’s approval rating has heavily been impacted by the recent indictments. In April 2022, Menendez polled with 44% favorability and 39% unfavorability across New Jersey voters, according to a Monmouth University poll. Following the indictments in 2023, his approval rating dropped into the negative with a 45% disapproval rate and a 36% approval rate. Among voters, 75% say he is probably guilty, and 63% say he should resign.

The New Jersey Senate seat has been held by Democrats since 1972, but polling indicates it may be within striking distance for the GOP. Past Republican victories in New Jersey have been won by slim margins, sometimes because of a spoiler candidate.

In 2009, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie won the New Jersey gubernatorial race with less than 50% of the vote because of an independent spoiler candidate.

“Republicans have won six gubernatorial races here since 1981, Christie most recently in 2009 and 2013,” Duhaime told DCNF. “In four of those six, republicans won with less than 50%. Christie won in 2009 even though there was an independent Republican in the race. So when independents are serious, Republicans tend to play it a little better and can win with under 50%.”

“We’re keeping a close eye on New Jersey,” Mike Berg, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told DCNF.

Rep. Andy Kim and Sen. Bob Menendez’s campaigns did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

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