Menendez brings on the big guns

If you didn’t think retaining U.S. Senator Robert Menendez’s seat was important to the Democratic National Committee, think again. It appears that Hillary Clinton is coming to Jersey City in mid-October for a high priced fundraiser.
Projections for the mid-term elections for House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are almost too close to call. The GOP currently controls the House by a substantial margin, but has a razor thin majority in the Senate. Democrats are looking to retake control of the House as has become tradition for the minority party in mid-term. This is aided by a number of GOP retirements. The Senate, however, is a tough fight even if the numbers are close. For the national party, losing in New Jersey could be devastating.
Menendez showed weakness in the June Democratic Primary when an underfunded Lisa McCormick took a sizable chunk of the vote. GOP candidate Bob Hugin has been trying to exploit this weakness, harping on the federal mistrial Menendez survived last year. Hugin hopes to paint Menendez with the same “corruption brush” Christopher Christie successfully used against Democrats when winning as governor in 2009.
Menendez has struck back focusing on Hugin’s career as a pharmaceutical executive and the massive settlement paid in a lawsuit from when Hugin still was employed.
But Menendez has other problems in this election, money problems. Hugin is throwing tons of money into the election that even the well-oiled Menendez fundraising machine can’t keep up with.
So enter Clinton stage right. If there is anything Clinton has proven she can do, it is raise money. During her presidential bid in 2016, her machine was able to bolster the national party’s finances.
The $5,400 per ticket fundraiser is scheduled to take place downtown Jersey City and is expected to draw some of the most powerful Democratic supporters in the region. It is also expected to draw protestors from Menendez’s GOP and Green Party opponents.
One of the protestors will be Green Party Senatorial Candidate Madelyn Hoffman, who sees both Bob Hugin and Bob Menendez as two sides of the same coin. While Hugin may have his roots in the pharmaceutical industry, Menendez appears to be courting medical insurance as well as a company that is behind a gas pipe line in Western New Jersey.
Hoffman, who had to resign her position with a non-profit peace and environmental group to run for Senate, hopes to position herself between the two Bobs as a moderate alternative.

Rally outside a rally

While the Hudson County Democratic Organization threw its support behind Menendez at a large rally on Sept. 6 at the Liberty House in Jersey City, Hoffman was outside in the hot sun with a number of protestors, rallying against the immigration contract Hudson County for holding detainees.
While Menendez has been a vocal critic of ICE, Hoffman believes he hasn’t done enough to pressure his Democratic colleagues in Hudson and Essex counties to stop cooperating with federal policies that incarcerate immigrants.
In a state where money and power politics generally wins the day for a candidate, Hoffman may be a long shot. But many people said similar things about McCormick’s chances last June, and then had to eat their words when the votes for her started piling in.
Bringing in Clinton, of course, might be seen as overkill in an election Democrats would normally take for granted as in the bag. But it is also a sign that Menendez’s reelection team may not as optimistic privately as they seem at public rallies.
But Hudson County itself appears to be coming together on his behalf with nearly every political boss in the county standing on stage with him including State Senators Brian Stack and Nicholas Sacco, as well as the newly elected HCDO Chair, Amy DeGise, Gov. Phil Murphy and others.
Stack called the recent dispute over the HCDO chair “a family dispute,” and that when it comes down to protecting Menendez, everybody in on the same page – well, maybe not everybody.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and West New York Mayor Felix Roque did not attend the Sept. 6 event, suggesting they have become outcasts on the political landscape.
Fulop and Roque were both part of a move to dump County Executive Tom DeGise earlier this year, in what some see as one of the worst blunders in Hudson County’s long political history. But then Stack was part of that team, as was Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who are not outcasts.
Many believe Roque will not survive next year’s municipal election as DeGise, Sacco, Rep. Albio Sires and others support a challenge against him. While Jersey City municipal elections are still three years ago, the HCDO is already looking ahead for alternatives to Fulop.
“Believe me we can come up with a few quality candidates to run,” said Craig Guy, chief of staff to Tom DeGise.

Al Sullivan may be reached at