Menendez Jr.’s crowning glory is New Jersey politics at its worst

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Republished courtesy of New Jersey Monitor. (Originally published on December 24, 2021)

The race to ensure Robert Menendez Jr. slips into the House of Representatives as Rep. Albio Sires’ successor is New Jersey politics at its worst.

It’s only been four days since Sires announced he would retire at the end of his current term, and Menendez – the son of Senator Bob Menendez, obvs – received the approval of Governor Phil Murphy, Sires, of the Senator State Joe Cryan, Hudson County Democratic President Amy DeGise, and nearly all of Hudson County’s top Democrats, among others.

There are six months left before the primary. There are no declared candidates. No issues were discussed. No votes were cast. Still, Junior has practically secured the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District, which means – in the absence of an electoral disaster for the Democratic Party that even optimistic Republicans do not foresee – he will become the next Congressman of the Congress. liberal district.

A better illustration of the power political bosses have over the New Jersey election, I can’t recall.

I spoke to Julia Sass Rubin, professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who criticized the process that allows a handful of party leaders to grant approval. of their party and, with it, placement of ballots. With the bosses on his side, Menendez the younger will get a better place on the ballot than anyone who dares challenge him, virtually guaranteeing his primary victory.

Rubin said the decision by top Democrats to line up behind Menendez Jr. shows that “only a few people hold all the power, and voters are fundamentally irrelevant to who gets elected.”

It reminds him of 2014, when Rep. Rob Andrews announced his retirement, and within hours Donald Norcross – brother of South Jersey power broker George Norcross – gained support from the Democratic establishment. Norcross of course won the primary and now represents New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District.

“This pattern of nepotism and lack of democracy is very normal in New Jersey because of the political machinery and the county line,” she said.

For me, what is troubling here is not nepotism. If the voters have a choice and decide to go with the guy whose father is famous, that is up to them.

But it is about depriving voters of that choice. The parade of Democrats who announced this week – days before Christmas, as countless New Jerseyers distracted by the COVID panic – that they support Menendez Jr. is not intended to convince voters that he is the best guy for the job.

No, this is to signal to potential challengers that they had better not think of hindering the political career of the son of Senator Bob Menendez. We are talking about a senator who once stood outside a courthouse and announced on camera that he was vindictive and had a long memory. Would you like to cross him?

I don’t know if Rob Menendez is the best person to represent the 8th arrondissement. But neither the governor nor any other Democrats are now rushing to approve it, but they are clearing the way for Menendez to join Congress without substantive opposition. Everything stinks worse than 13A.

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