Representative Andy Kim, a Democrat from New Jersey, recently announced his decision to challenge Senator Bob Menendez in the state’s Democratic primary for the 2024 election. Kim’s decision comes in the wake of growing calls from fellow Democrats for Menendez to resign following a federal indictment on charges of corruption. In a statement released from his campaign account on X (formerly Twitter), Kim expressed his motivation for running against Menendez, stating, “After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said ‘I am not going anywhere.’ As a result, I feel compelled to run against him.” Kim believes that the people of New Jersey deserve better representation and that their integrity should not be compromised. He emphasized his commitment to serve the residents of New Jersey, regardless of whether they vote for him or not.
The indictment against Menendez was unsealed by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on Friday. The charges allege that Menendez agreed to use his position of power to benefit various individuals and the Egyptian government in exchange for substantial bribes. Menendez’s wife, Nadine, as well as three businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes, were also implicated in the bribery scheme. The bribes allegedly included luxury items such as gold bars, cash, and a luxury convertible.
Despite the charges, Menendez has staunchly refused to resign his seat and has declared his intention to run for re-election in 2024. However, he did step down from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in compliance with Senate Democratic Caucus rules, which mandate that members charged with a felony relinquish their committee chair roles. Representative Josh Gottheimer, another Democrat from New Jersey, expressed his support for Menendez’s past achievements but acknowledged the serious nature of the allegations. Gottheimer believes that it will be challenging for Menendez to fulfill his responsibilities amidst these allegations and urged him to step aside for the benefit of the state and focus on his defense.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat who would have the authority to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Menendez’s term if he resigns, also called for Menendez to step down. Governor Murphy condemned the charges against Menendez, emphasizing their implications for national security and the integrity of the criminal justice system.
Senator John Fetterman from Pennsylvania, facing his own controversy over the Senate’s dress code, became the first Democratic senator to call for Menendez’s resignation. Fetterman believes that while Menendez is entitled to the presumption of innocence, he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy given the serious and specific nature of the allegations. Fetterman hopes that Menendez will make an honorable exit and focus on his trial.
It is worth noting that Menendez previously faced a federal corruption indictment in 2015, although the charges ended in a mistrial in 2017. In 2018, the Senate Ethics Committee found that Menendez had violated federal law and Senate rules by accepting unreported gifts from a friend and political ally.