Embattled US senator Bob Menendez to run as independent, stokes Democratic fears of majority loss

Embattled US senator Bob Menendez to run as independent, stokes Democratic fears of majority loss
Senator Bob Menendez, with accusations of corruption earning him ridicule and loss of support from the Democratic Party, will be running as an independent.
2 min read
Washington, DC
05 June, 2024
Indicted Congressman Bob Menendez will run as an independent. [Getty]

On the eve of the New Jersey Democratic primary election, after many voters had chosen their candidate, embattled senator Bob Menendez announced that he would run as an independent, a move that many from his party fear could put the razor-thin Democratic majority in jeopardy.

Menendez, who, along with his Lebanese wife Nadine (née Arslanian), was indicted on allegations of federal corruption in 2023, lost much of the Democratic Party's support in the wake of the scandal. This involved accusations of providing sensitive political information to Egyptians, stashing gold bars and wads of cash in his home, and unethically trying to corner the US halal market. 

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The bizarre nature of the allegations quickly became fodder for late-night comedy shows and an embarrassment to many in the Democratic Party. His decision to register as an independent the day before Tuesday's election could not have sat well with strategists from his party, who were probably hoping this primary would be the end of his senate career.

"Disgraced Senator Menendez has already stained the Democratic Party enough. He should do the right thing and tell his few remaining supporters to support the Democratic nominee. Rather than use his campaign funds to pay for his legal bills, as some suspect," Connor Farrell, founder and CEO of Left Rising, a fundraising consulting firm for progressive candidates, told The New Arab, likely expressing what many Democrats were thinking following Menendez's decision to stay in the race.

Indeed, with his approval rating currently hovering around 10 percent, Menendez has almost no pathway to re-election, leading to speculation that he's only staying in the race to raise money for his own legal bills, as his trial continues.

"As long as he's an active candidate, he can still raise money. It comes in handy if you're in a legal situation," J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told TNA, adding that he doesn't expect Menendez to get more than 6 percent of the vote. 

Will the presence of Menendez in the race affect the outcome? On Tuesday night, Andy Kim won New Jersey's Democratic primary with more than 76 percent of the vote, giving him a strong mandate for the general election. Though New Jersey is a blue state, Republican candidates for statewide office can get around 45 percent of the vote, meaning the Democrats can't take this race for granted, particularly if they want to keep their narrow US Senate majority.