July 24, 2018

STAY TUNED: Will New Jersey Send A Republican To The Senate?

Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats, Republicans only nine. Five Democratic incumbents are running in states that 21 months ago experienced Donald Trump swoons: He won Missouri by 18.6 points, Indiana by 19.2, Montana by 20.4, North Dakota by 35.7, West Virginia by 42.1. In New Jersey, which Hillary Clinton carried by 14.1 points, Menendez was supposed to be safe.

The Republicans’ most recent presidential victory in New Jersey was in 1988. In the subsequent seven elections, the Democratic presidential candidates’ average margin of victory was almost 13 points. This state last elected a Republican senator (Clifford Case) in 1972. This 46-year drought might end in November.

Robert Hugin, 63, grew up in blue-collar Union City, as did Menendez, with whom Hugin served as student representatives to the local board of education. Hugin became the first in his family to graduate from college (Princeton), served 14 years in the Marine Corps (his two sons are now officers), then went into business, rising to run a pharmaceutical company. This sin, although scarlet in the overheated public mind, might be less so than Menendez’s transgressions detailed in the letter.

With hilarious understatement, James Madison, who was not known for hilarity, said, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” A unanimous Senate ethics committee (three Republicans, three Democrats) in its April 26 letter to Menendez said: “By this letter, you are hereby severely admonished.” Menendez, the letter said, brought “discredit upon the Senate” by the following:

“Over a six-year period,” Menendez “knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value” from a friend (an ophthalmologist who, the letter did not say, is currently appealing a 17-year sentence for $73 million of fraudulent Medicare billings). The gifts included air travel on private and commercial flights, a luxury hotel stay in Paris (the committee’s letter is demurely silent about Menendez’s accompanying girlfriend) and 19 visits to a Dominican Republic villa. He neither publicly reported, nor received written permission for, these gifts. In addition, the committee said, Menendez improperly intervened with federal agencies with “persistent advocacy” for his friend’s business interests.

Menendez got off light. The voters should turn him out. But it’s New Jersey, so. . . .

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