Nearly every major Democratic official in the state this weekend called for Bob Menendez to resign his U.S. Senate seat. They had to — the charges in the indictment were so brazen and stunning, they had no choice.
Don’t expect Menendez (D-N.J.) to heed their advice. He can’t — the charges in the indictment were so brazen and stunning, he has no choice but to potentially lose them as leverage while cutting a deal with prosecutors.
That’s why we’re in a period of hurry-up-and-wait, according to conversations with insiders this weekend, all of whom would only speak on background. Here is a collection of their thoughts:
- Hurry up: The fact that the election is fewer than 50 days away has Democratic officials eager to put this behind them. Republicans certainly will try to use this in their favor. How — or if — it could impact local elections is unclear, but it’s something the Democrats don’t want to find out.
- Wait: In addition to a negotiating piece, Menendez — who could still be in office awaiting trial a year from today — also needs to remain in office to have any chance to raise money for his defense, which will be huge.
- Hurry up: There could be more charges out there, as prosecutors have hinted. That could speed things up. So could this: There are numerous co-conspirators who only have one potential piece of leverage, testifying against Menendez.
- Wait: Don’t expect Cory Booker (D-N.J.), New Jersey’s junior senator, to speak out against Menendez anytime soon (he is the only major Democratic official who hasn’t). Aside from being a friend, he also is following the lead of the rest of the U.S. Senate (outside of John Fetterman of Pennsylvania).
- Hurry up:S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3rd Dist.) already has indicated he wants the post and will attempt to primary Menendez, should he still be in office in 2024. It’s unclear who else will have interest, because …
- Wait:S. Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) still have sights on the 2025 governor’s race — which they can’t announce until after the 2024 election, when their seats are up.
The only thing that is clear is that Menendez no longer has the support of this party — and certainly would not get the coveted line, should he somehow be running for reelection in 2024.
Read more from ROI-NJ:
- Feds indict Sen. Bob Menendez and wife on bribery charges
- At Hispanic Chamber business event, Menendez indictment is met with disappointment, disgust
- Murphy, top Democratic leaders in state call for Menendez to resign
That fate was sealed Friday night, when Murphy led a parade of politicians calling for his resignation. Murphy would get to hand-pick a replacement.
“The allegations in the indictment against Sen. Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing,” Murphy said Friday. “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system.
“The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Sen. Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
The only person to beat Murphy to the call was Kim — in what clearly was a planned strategy. On Saturday, Kim announced his intention to seek the Senate seat.
How will all this play out? … And who would be the potential successor … None of that has been determined. Right now, it’s simply hurry-up-and-wait.