Indicted Senator’s Independent Run Complicates New Jersey Senate Race For Democrats

The decision of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to run as an independent candidate amid his ongoing federal corruption trial has thrown a wrench into the state’s senate race, potentially setting him up as a spoiler for the Democratic nominee, Andy Kim. Menendez, who has held the senate seat as a Democrat since 2006, filed to run as an independent, complicating matters for Kim and tightening the race for a seat that has remained blue for over 50 years.

According to Mike Duhaime, former chief strategist for Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaign, Menendez could act as a spoiler, drawing support from his loyal following in Hudson County, where Kim would rely on a massive margin. In a two-way race, Kim leads Republican nominee Curtis Bashaw by nine points, but with Menendez included, Kim’s lead shrinks to just five points, with Menendez drawing about 6% of the voters who would otherwise support Kim.

Menendez’s approval rating has taken a hit due to the recent indictments, with 75% of voters saying he is probably guilty and 63% believing 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, as past Republican victories in New Jersey have been won by slim margins, sometimes due to a spoiler candidate.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is keeping a close eye on New Jersey, as the state’s senate race becomes increasingly competitive due to Menendez’s independent run and the potential for a split Democratic vote.