New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez was re-elected to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, riding anti-Trump enthusiasm to overcome the lingering cloud of his bribery trial and an onslaught of attack ads aired by Republican Bob Hugin.
The Garden State hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, but Democratic strategists were bracing for a possible loss, worried that college-educated suburbanites couldn’t stomach a vote for Menendez and that urban voters wouldn’t go to the polls for a midterm election. Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive from Summit, loaned his campaign $36 million to make the race competitive.
New Jersey voters’ discomfort with President Donald Trump — a theme echoed throughout the campaign — may have proved too big a hurdle for Hugin in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 920,000. Menendez held on to win a third term.
Though Democrats were relieved by the senator’s victory, it may have come at a cost. The tight race forced national Democrats to divert resources from key battleground states — like Missouri, Florida, and Indiana — seen as key to their long shot chances of taking the Senate.
Menendez’s re-election came a year to the month after the senator stood in a courtroom at the federal courthouse in Newark as a judge declared a mistrial in his corruption case, saying the jury was hopelessly deadlocked.
The judge later acquitted Menendez of some of the charges and prosecutors dropped the case. But the federal indictment and evidence presented at trial, plus a bipartisan reprimand handed down by the Senate Ethics Committee, gave Republicans a powerful line of attack for the campaign.
For his part, Menendez depicted Hugin as a Trump Republican and greedy Big Pharma boss — he was the CEO of the biotech company Celgene — who repeatedly raised the price of a cancer drug. He and Menendez, both 64, are natives of Union City.
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