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‘The son also rises’

Robert Menendez Jr. wins the Democratic Primary Election for the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey

Robert Menendez Jr. won the Democratic Primary for New Jersey's 8th Congressional District. Photos by Mark Koosau.

Familial political dynasties now have a new poster boy in New Jersey. The outcome of one of the latest congressional Primary Elections in Hudson County is phonetically evocative of a book title Ernest Hemingway once borrowed from Ecclesiastes.

The son of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez has won the Democratic Primary on June 7 to become the candidate for the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey. The seat was left empty by Rep. Albio Sires, who is retiring from the House of Representatives to run for mayor in West New York and incumbent Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez is set to run for the new assembly seat in the post-legislative redistricting 33rd Legislative District.

Robert Menendez Jr., a Jersey City lawyer and Port Authority commissioner, beat out the healthcare start-up founder and activist from Jersey City David Ocampo Grajales and Weehawken teacher and record label owner Ane Roseborough-Eberhard in the Primary Election.

He will now face off with Republican housing inspector from West New York Marcos Arroyo in the General Election in November. And given Hudson County’s dark blue nature, Menendez will likely easily win the empty congressional seat too.

Son of senator strikes first victory

In a statement on Election Night, Menendez declared victory in the Primary Election: “We have always said that we need to meet this moment together. And tonight, with the working families of the 8th Congressional District behind us, we did. I am grateful for their support and their faith in our campaign.”

Menendez thanked his family for their support: “This campaign would not have been possible without the support of my wife Alex, and I am very thankful for the sacrifices that she has made to make tonight possible. I would like to thank my parents for instilling in me the same spirit of public service that has guided them throughout their lives. I hope I have made them proud in how we conducted our campaign.”

Additionally, Menendez thanked both Grajales and Roseborough “for their contributions to this race and for their spirited campaigns.” He touted the numbers of places he has visited in the 8th District and the faces he has met throughout his campaign so far, noting the issues that face his potential future constituents and the county.

“Our district and our country face a multitude of challenges,” Menendez said. “We are ready to face those challenges head on and believe our campaign reflected this district’s grit, grind, and hustle every single day. It’s been an honor to connect with so many voters and we are immensely proud of tonight’s results.”

David Ocampo Grajales came in second in the Democratic contest.

Grajales and Roseborough concede

In an interview with the Hudson Reporter, Grajales said he was feeling “fired up” despite the loss to Menendez. This will likely not be the last of Grajales in local politics.

“At the end of the day, it’s not the results that we were hoping for,” Grajales said. “For me it’s my first race. I’m proud of the work that our team is doing to get out there across the district. We knew we would be outspent, that the ballot line would be working against us, and yet I still think we gave thousands of people hope. We had thousands of great conversations, and I think there’s a hunger for change in New Jersey. So while I’m disappointed with the results tonight, I’m just getting started. And I’m looking forward to working for the years to come to build the progressive movement here in New Jersey.” 

Roseborough told the Hudson Reporter she was “all good” with the outcome of the Primary Election. She added she was going to continue being an active member on the Amistad Commission as well as  teaching, something she never stopped doing throughout her campaign, with an upcoming field trip to Six Flags planned on June 8.  

“First of all, congratulations to Rob, I did speak with him earlier,” Roseborough said. “I’m glad that I ran in this race. Democratic elections are super important in this country. Having anyone feel as though they can participate, as long as they meet basic requirements, and I think I stood for that. As a Black American female teacher who ran in this race, I can honestly say that I ran this race with honor and integrity. It was important for me to not take any money, which I didn’t during this race. It was a good exercise for me. I met a lot of amazing people in the district and I still love where I live. I will always represent my area to the best of my abilities.” 

Ane Roseborough-Eberhard came in a close third after an active election cycle.

Election results by the numbers

By the numbers, for the Democrats, Menendez came in first place with a combined approximately 23,000 votes, according to unofficial election results from across the three counties. And for Republicans, the unopposed Arroyo walked away with approximately 2,600 votes by the same measure.

In Hudson County, Menendez garnered 19,455 votes, per unofficial election results from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office as of 10:45 p.m. Grajales came in second with 2,700 votes and Roseborough got 1,233 votes, with 46 write-in votes. In total, Menendez walked away with 83.02 percent of the vote to Grajales’ 11.52 percent and Roseborough’s 5.26 percent.

On the Republican side of things, Arroyo got 2,161 or 98.99 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results as of 10:45 p.m. There were 22 write-in votes totaling 1.01 percent.

In Essex County, Menendez tallied 1,452 votes or 89.18 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results from the Essex County Clerk’s Office as of 11:31 p.m. Ocampo Grajales got 148 votes or 9.10 percent of the vote, while Roseborough saw 28 votes or 1.72 percent. There appeared to be no write-in votes.

For the Republican Arroyo, he got 146 votes or 100 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results as of 11:31 p.m. There did not appear to be any write-in votes.

And in Union County, Menendez recieved 2,938 votes or 86.77 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results from the Union County Clerk’s Office as of 10:37 p.m. Grajales garnered 270 votes or 7.97 percent of the vote, and Roseborough tallied 156 votes or 4.61 percent. There were 22 write-in votes, or .65 percent of the vote.

Lastly, the Republican Arroyo got 310 votes or 98.10 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results as of 10:37 p.m. There were six write-in votes totaling 1.90 percent.

Menendez ahead looks to November

Menendez received overwhelming support from the Democratic establishment early on, with Sires giving his blessing before Menendez even announced his campaign, and that continued throughout the contest. From the Hudson County Democratic Organization, to those in Essex and Union Counties, as well as Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Senator Corey Booker from New Jersey, Menendez brought in a number of political endorsements and infrastructure including the highly valuable get-out-the-vote guru that is Union City Mayor and New Jersey state Senator Brian Stack. With the machine’s backing, it’s no surprise he raised over six digits throughout the primary, or $1,064,060.56 according to a report from the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, Grajales and Roseborough both flanked Menendez Jr. from the left. However, even with the backing of progressive political organizations such as the Progressive Democrats of New Jersey, it was not enough to push Grajales over the finish line. Grajales only raised $37,433.96, according to the FEC, and Roseborough did not accept any money from donors during her self-funded campaign.

And the race for Arroyo was beyond silent, par the course for a Republican running unopposed in the deeply Democratic 8th Congressional District of New Jersey. There were not any FEC filings for Arroyo for this election cycle.

Now Menendez and Arroyo will face off on November 8. And the Libertarian Party is running candidate Dan Delaney, although it is unclear how much of a factor he will play in the campaign for the General Election.

Menendez concluded: “It is time to fight for the values that this district and this country were built upon. When we declared our candidacy on January 6th, we did so knowing the challenges facing our country. Since then, we have seen Russia launch a land war in Ukraine, the Supreme Court indicate its intention to overturn Roe, the massacre in Buffalo, and then Uvalde – a community that looks much like the one I grew up in. I think about these challenges every day and they weigh on me, as they do on the entire country. But I believe we can overcome them because I believe in this country and what it represents. I will never stop believing in this country and I will never stop fighting for this district. Onward to November.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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