MacArthur reelection chances now a ‘toss-up’ after Monmouth poll

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who made a fortune in the insurance business, pumped $5 million of his own money into his first congressional campaign in 2014.

He didn’t need to use any of his personal wealth in 2016, when he easily won reelection in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District. But times have changed, and this year MacArthur is locked in a virtual dead heat with Democrat Andy Kim, according to a new poll.

His campaign, however, won’t say whether MacArthur, who supports President Donald Trump on most major issues, will dip back into his own pocket to boost his efforts in the swing district that’s now been ranked a “toss-up.”

A Monmouth University Polling Institute survey released Tuesday shows MacArthur leading Kim 41 percent to 40 percent among registered voters in the swing district who have cast ballots since 2010 — a result well within the poll’s Continue reading “MacArthur reelection chances now a ‘toss-up’ after Monmouth poll”

Menendez to county chairs on reelection: Don’t worry, I’ve got this

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called the state’s Democratic county chairs into a hotel in East Brunswick on Tuesday to give them a message: Don’t worry, we have a plan.

Menendez, a Democrat who just last year survived a federal corruption trial, has for months faced an barrage of television ads from Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin, a millionaire former pharmaceutical executive who so far has put $15.5 million of his own money into his campaign.

With the exception of a new super PAC that’s slamming Hugin for raising drug prices, those attacks have gone unanswered on the airwaves. And some New Jersey Democratic leaders are getting nervous.

“I was not worried,” said Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, “but I think there were some people who were.”

Menendez sought to allay that fear by addressing the county chairs himself, outlining the state of the race and Continue reading “Menendez to county chairs on reelection: Don’t worry, I’ve got this”

Christie’s shadow still hangs over New Jersey GOP

Chris Christie is still sucking up all the oxygen in New Jersey’s Republican Party.

During Christie’s eight years as governor, Republicans would often say privately that he was using the party to promote his own presidential prospects while refusing to spread resources won by his national stardom to help the party build a bench.

But even after Christie’s presidential prospects crashed and he left office as the most disliked governor in state history, the New Jersey GOP is still, in some ways, the party of Christie — at least based on whom it has recently nominated for statewide offices.

In 2017, Republicans chose Kim Guadagno — who, despite some private differences with Christie, served as his loyal lieutenant governor for eight years — as their gubernatorial nominee over then-Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who had been openly critical of the governor.

Now, in the upcoming race for U.S. Senate, New Jersey Republicans Continue reading “Christie’s shadow still hangs over New Jersey GOP”

Menendez jumps on Hugin’s past opposition to allowing women, gays into elite Princeton club

When New Jersey Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin was a senior at Princeton University, he made it clear that gay students weren’t welcome at the Tiger Inn, the elite eating club he led as president.

If a member of the club was found to be gay, a 21-year-old Hugin told the Central Jersey Home News in 1976, “he wouldn’t last long,” according to an article circulated Friday by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

"I’m proud to say that my views are a lot different than they were 40 years ago. On this issue I was probably more influenced by my kids than anything else. They had insight at a very early age on the issues of equality and fairness that made me re-evaluate the way I saw the world,” Hugin said in a statement to POLITICO on Friday. “Personal growth should be seen as a strength, Continue reading “Menendez jumps on Hugin’s past opposition to allowing women, gays into elite Princeton club”

Menendez’s anti-Hugin website comes under fire for its news-like format

A website New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s campaign set up to tarnish his Republican opponent is coming under fire from Republicans and some media outlets for having the appearance of a legitimate news site.

But the Menendez campaign says it’s been upfront about the fact the website is from the campaign and that Republicans are just trying to create noise to distract from the information the site presents about GOP nominee Bob Hugin.

Menendez (D-N.J.) announced HealthNewsNJ.com last week to highlight Hugin’s record leading the New Jersey-based drug company Celgene, which has drawn criticism in some quarters for raising the price of cancer drugs, parking money overseas and a $280 million settlement in a fraud lawsuit.

“How greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin gouged cancer patients and enabled Donald Trump,” the website’s first headline reads.

The website links to several stories about Celgene’s controversies that appeared on Continue reading “Menendez’s anti-Hugin website comes under fire for its news-like format”

Pro-Hugin super PAC has ties to Christie

A super PAC with ties to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to spend big to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in November.

Integrity NJ, a super PAC that formed in February, had been quiet about its intentions until Monday, when it announced it had raised $2 million to boost the election effort of Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin, who’s already put $15.5 million of his own money into his campaign against Menendez.

Integrity NJ’s entire fundraising haul came from just eight donors, according to campaign filing reports with the Federal Election Commission.

The PAC‘s existence was first reported in New Jersey Playbook in March. Its ties to Hugin were revealed in April.

“New Jerseyans deserve a Senator who will fight for their interests in Washington, DC, not jet-setting on private planes all over the globe or fighting corruption charges in federal courtrooms,” said the PAC’s executive director, Continue reading “Pro-Hugin super PAC has ties to Christie”

New Jersey Democratic House candidates crushing Republicans in fundraising

Theoretically, freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer should be in a competitive race this November in New Jersey‘s 5th Congressional District.

Gottheimer was, after all, elected in 2016 in a district that President Donald Trump won and has been held by Republicans for decades. His victory was the result, in no small part, of backlash from then-Republican Rep. Scott Garrett’s alleged anti-gay remarks.

But if money means anything, Gottheimer has little to worry about. He has more than $4.5 million in his campaign account, while his GOP opponent, John McCann, has just $6,492.46, according to reports filed with the FEC.

Gottheimer’s North Jersey district is the most extreme example of fundraising discrepancies between New Jersey Democrats and Republicans in districts that are considered competitive this year — or at least once were. The trend exists throughout the state. Fueled by anti-Trump anger and activism, Democrats aren’t just dominating Republicans in Continue reading “New Jersey Democratic House candidates crushing Republicans in fundraising”

Poll finds race for Frelinghuysen seat a dead heat

Mikie Sherrill, the Democratic congressional candidate in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District — a traditionally red seat — is in a statistical dead heat with her Republican opponent, state Assemblyman Jay Webber, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The latest Monmouth University poll shows Sherrill leading Webber 40 percent to 38 percent among all potential voters — a demographic defined as those who have voted since 2010 or are newly registered.

The 2-point difference is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points for all potential voters. Sherrill’s advantage increases slightly when two “likely voter“ models are factored in.

In the traditional midterm likely-voter model, Sherrill leads Webber 44 percent to 40 percent — still within the margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points among likely voters. Using a model with a Democratic turnout surge, her lead expands to 6 points, 45 Continue reading “Poll finds race for Frelinghuysen seat a dead heat”

Murphy order will ban using state resources to help separate immigrant families

TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday he will sign an executive order that will bar any state resources from being used to help federal authorities separate children and their parents who are seeking to enter the U.S.

“New Jersey will not be a party to this utterly inhumane policy. Ever since our founding — and you can argue even before — our nation has been a beacon for families seeking freedom and yearning for a better life,” Murphy said at an unrelated press conference in Trenton. “President Trump has turned this promise on its head by doubling down on his inhumane and cruel policy of separating families. Housing children in cages should send chills down the spine of any right-thinking American.”

It’s not clear, however, whether any New Jersey resources are being used to separate immigrant families at the border. Murphy did not say specifically what actions would be Continue reading “Murphy order will ban using state resources to help separate immigrant families”

Congressional nominee’s views on race causing headaches for New Jersey GOP

Seth Grossman isn’t apologizing.

Grossman, the surprise Republican nominee for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd District, was caught on video during a GOP candidates forum this spring calling diversity “a bunch of crap and un-American.”

He’s now doubling down — tripling down, even — expressing views on race and opportunity that one local NAACP leader described as “cowering ignorance and an evasion of reality.”

This is the new reality New Jersey Republicans are facing in the era of President Donald Trump. Grossman, who has campaigned as an adherent to Trump, is running for the seat that’s been held for the past 24 years by moderate GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo, one of a number of House Republicans retiring ahead of the midterm elections.

Grossman, who has shown little ability to raise funds, is running against Jeff Van Drew, a well-known conservative-leaning Democratic state senator. Van Drew not only Continue reading “Congressional nominee’s views on race causing headaches for New Jersey GOP”

Christie-Giuliani ties still strong despite recent dust-ups, allies say

TRENTON — Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, fellow defenders of President Donald Trump and longtime friends across the Hudson, don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye these days.

First, the combative former New Jersey governor denied a statement from Giuliani that Christie was willing to conduct practice sessions with the president for a possible sit-down with Special counsel Robert Mueller. And then, when the former New York City mayor said he’d been referring clients to Christie’s brand new law firm, the former governor’s camp rebutted the claim.

While the comments raised eyebrows, those close to Christie insist there’s no bad blood between the two men, both known for their confrontational styles. But the crossed wires reflect the different paths the two former U.S. Attorneys — both of whom were passed over for top positions in the Trump administration — are taking as Giuliani doubles down on his role Continue reading “Christie-Giuliani ties still strong despite recent dust-ups, allies say”

Murphy, sending a ‘strong and clear message,’ signs 6 gun control bills into law

TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy, declaring he was sending “a strong and clear message” to President Donald Trump, signed six gun control bills into law during an hourlong ceremony Wednesday attended by hundreds of gun control advocates and a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

Some of the laws merely align New Jersey with already existing federal laws and formally roll back a Christie administration regulation. Others are more substantial and controversial, including reducing the permitted size of ammunition clips.

Murphy and others who attended the signing ceremony at the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton were all about the larger message the new laws send to Washington.

“It sends a strong and clear message to our president, to our Republican leadership in Congress and to the corporate gun lobby: We are going to be a leader in the fight for common-sense gun safety laws,” said Murphy, a Democrat who Continue reading “Murphy, sending a ‘strong and clear message,’ signs 6 gun control bills into law”

Sports betting bill written to include site that won’t host horse racing

Legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Monday afternoon to allow sports betting in New Jersey includes a provision for a sports book at the site of a former racetrack in Cherry Hill where there are no plans to ever host horse racing again.

The site is owned by Jack Morris and Joseph Marino, two developers with ties to South Jersey power broker George Norcross.

Most traces of the former track at what’s now Towne Place at Garden State Park, a high-end commercial and residential development, have been obliterated, except for the entrance gate at the intersection of Route 70 and Garden State Boulevard.

In 2011, New Jersey voters approved sports betting at the sites of current and “former“ horse racing tracks and casinos, but the definition of a former racetrack was not taken up until the Legislature passed a bill to implement the voters’ will.

The first attempt Continue reading “Sports betting bill written to include site that won’t host horse racing”

Menendez vs. Hugin: ‘Corrupt’ senator vs. ‘greedy’ pharmaceutical exec

The New Jersey Senate seat held by Bob Menendez should be one of the safest for Democrats this year. But Menendez’s legal troubles and the deep pockets of his Republican opponent, Bob Hugin, introduce an element of uncertainty into the equation.

Control of the U.S. Senate could depend on the outcome.

Menendez survived a six-week federal corruption trial last fall after a jury deadlocked on bribery charges against him. However, the Senate Ethics Committee later determined he violated federal law by accepting and not reporting private jet flights and other gifts from his friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.

Hugin supported and donated heavily to President Donald Trump’s 2016 election effort and headed a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company that raised prices 20 percent in less than a year on a key cancer drug, parked money overseas and made it harder for companies to produce a generic version of its Continue reading “Menendez vs. Hugin: ‘Corrupt’ senator vs. ‘greedy’ pharmaceutical exec”

New Jersey Democratic primary voters send Menendez a message

Democratic primary voters in New Jersey sent a message of protest to Sen. Bob Menendez on Tuesday.

Menendez — an influential two-term incumbent who survived a six-week corruption trial last year when the jury deadlocked on bribery charges against him — defeated challenger Lisa McCormick, a virtually unknown local newspaper publisher who didn’t even file a campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission.

But with 93 percent of the ballots counted, Menendez led with 62 percent of the vote — an unimpressive showing for the ranking member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee facing a no-name opponent.

Menendez had the weight of New Jersey’s Democratic machine behind him, including enthusiastic endorsements from Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray said the margin of victory “doesn’t look great.”

“Imagine if there had been a real challenge campaign,” he tweeted.

Democrats, however, Continue reading “New Jersey Democratic primary voters send Menendez a message”

New Jersey House primaries carry nationwide significance

Tuesday’s congressional primaries will set the stage in what could become one of the most competitive states in November’s midterm elections.

New Jersey, a deep-blue state that nevertheless has five of its 12 seats in the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans, is a top target for Democrats, who are hoping to flip at least three of the GOP-held seats in their effort to retake control of the chamber.

Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Rodney Frelinghuysen, two Republican incumbents who have held their districts without serious challenges from the right for more than two decades, are retiring, while a third GOP incumbent — Rep. Leonard Lance — who for the last decade has had to worry more about primary challenges than the general election, is considered particularly vulnerable.

These once reliably GOP districts, two of which are dominated by wealthy, well-educated suburbanites, are suddenly up for grabs.

The state’s primary season started last Continue reading “New Jersey House primaries carry nationwide significance”

Menendez suggests he doesn’t need to pay back anything more to Melgen

RIDGEFIELD, N.J. — Sen. Bob Menendez suggested Friday that he may not pay back anything more than he already has for private jet flights and gifts he received from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, his friend and co-defendant in last year’s federal corruption trial.

A jury failed to convict Menendez and Melgen on bribery charges for nearly $1 million in political contributions and gifts the senator received from Melgen, allegedly in exchange for official action by the Democratic senator. But the Senate Ethics Committee admonished Menendez, demanding, without going into specifics, that he amend his financial disclosure reports to reflect the gifts and pay them back.

“I think the Ethics Committee was unaware that there were a series of payments that were made before they continued their review,” Menendez said at an unrelated press conference in Bergen County. “Remember, [the ethics complaint] was filed in 2012 by Republicans here Continue reading “Menendez suggests he doesn’t need to pay back anything more to Melgen”

Ethics panel gives Menendez wide latitude for repayment of gifts from Melgen

Last month, the Senate Ethics Committee demanded that Sen. Bob Menendez pay back the value of the gifts he received from his friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, and amend his Senate financial disclosure reports to show those gifts, which the panel determined he had improperly failed to report for years.

But the committee provided no time frame for Menendez (D-N.J.) to amend the reports or for the repayments, nor did it detail exactly how much he has to pay back. According to ethics watchdogs, it’s completely up to Menendez, who is seeking reelection this year, as to when and how much he’ll reimburse and disclose.

“They are clearly leaving it up to Menendez to make his own determination …,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the ethics watchdog group Public Citizen. “The Senate Ethics Committee is notorious for being very lax and usually sweeping everything under the Continue reading “Ethics panel gives Menendez wide latitude for repayment of gifts from Melgen”

Menendez admonishment gives New Jersey Republicans a lifeline

Some New Jersey Republicans, staring down an electoral cliff, think they’ve spotted a branch to hold on to in Sen. Robert Menendez’s ethical troubles.

The Senate Ethics Committee’s “severe” admonishment of Menendez last week over gifts received from and favors done for a friend gave some much-needed ammunition to New Jersey Republicans who are running in a state where President Donald Trump’s deep unpopularity is threatening to make it the crest of an incoming Democratic wave.

"Both Democrats and Republicans that make up the Bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee have found that Senator Bob Menendez violated Federal law and ethics rules. He is an embarrassment to our state and it is time for him to resign," Bob Hugin, Menendez’s likely challenger in November, said in a statement last week.

It’s not just Hugin, a wealthy former pharmaceutical executive, who’s seized on the Ethics Committee’s findings. In the 2nd Congressional District, Continue reading “Menendez admonishment gives New Jersey Republicans a lifeline”

How progressives got steamrolled in New Jersey

Jeff Van Drew has voted against raising the minimum wage and gay marriage. He often sides with industry on environmental issues and carries an A rating from the NRA. And he’s the odds-on favorite to be New Jersey’s newest Democratic congressman.

In the party’s first real crack at winning the South Jersey-based district held by retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) for more than two decades, Democratic party establishment — at every level — is throwing its collective weight behind Van Drew, leaving local progressives baffled, frustrated and more than a little angry.

The race is a showcase of whether the Democratic Party nationally will tolerate politicians like Van Drew in the name of winning back the majority in the U.S. House for the first time since 2011. It highlights Democrats’ struggles to blend their stated ideals on issues like diversity and gun control with the political realities Continue reading “How progressives got steamrolled in New Jersey”