U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who survived a federal corruption trial last year after jurors deadlocked on bribery charges against him, won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to seek a third term on Capitol Hill.
Menendez, 64, thanked the state’s voters when the race was called for him shortly before 9:30 p.m.
He defeated Lisa McCormick of Rahway, 49, publisher of a community news website. She said she ran to give voters “more and better choices” and attacked Menendez for having “disgraced” New Jersey.
Already, Menendez and the likely Republican nominee, millionaire former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin have been battling each in general-election mode for several weeks.
The vote came just five weeks after the Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” Menendez for accepting valuable gifts from, Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, and then using his position to advance Melgen’s interests.
Menendez, who maintains his innocence, was tried on bribery charges stemming from lavish gifts, flights on private jets and campaign support he received from Melgen, his friend and co-defendant. After the jury failed to reach a verdict, federal prosecutors dismissed the charges.
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released in mid May found that just a third of those surveyed approved of the job Menendez is doing, with 37 percent disapproving. Fewer than a quarter of participants had a positive view of the senator, with 35 percent having a negative impression of him.
Some polls, however, have suggested the incumbent begins with a double-digit lead over Hugin, and analysts say that Menendez is slightly favored to win in November. He benefits in part because he is a Democrat in a blue state, where there is an intense wave of opposition to President Trump.
New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1972, when Clifford Case was reelected. Six years later, a conservative primary challenger defeated Case, one of a now-extinct breed of liberal Republicans.