Political News

This newspaper wants you to know both Senate candidates in New Jersey are completely terrible

Posted October 30, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT

— The Newark Star-Ledger's editorial board wanted to make two things very clear in their endorsement of Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) re-election bid:

1. They felt compelled to endorse someone.

2. Both Menendez and Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin are truly awful.

In an op-ed headlined "Choke it down, and vote for Menendez" (I told you it was bad!), the editorial board writes: "This year's U.S. Senate race presents the most depressing choice for New Jersey voters in a generation, with two awful candidates whose most convincing argument is that the other guy is unfit to serve."

Democracy! Love it!

For the uninitiated, Menendez is running for a third term amid the lingering whiff of corruption. In April 2015, he was charged with 14 criminal counts -- 8 of which dealt with bribery -- revolving around his relationship with a wealthy doctor named Salomon Melgen. In November 2017, the jury deadlocked on the charges and a mistrial was declared. The Justice Department declined the opportunity to pursue a retrial.

But in April 2018, the Senate Ethics Committee -- including its three Democratic members -- released a "public letter of admonition" that read in part:

"The Committee has found that over a six-year period you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval, and that you failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate rule and federal law. ... The Committee has determined that this conduct violated Senate Rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct."

Here's what the Star-Ledger op-ed had to say about Menendez's ethical issues:

"It's a miracle that Menendez escaped criminal conviction, and an act of profound narcissism that he stayed in the race despite this baggage, putting a Democratic seat at risk while Donald Trump sits in the White House."

Amazing!

You'd think Hugin, a wealthy businessman and former chairman of Donald Trump's New Jersey campaign, would clear that incredibly low bar, right? WRONG!

The Star-Ledger op-ed details a series of complaints against Hugin during his time at Celgene, a pharmaceutical firm, including a settlement of more than $280 million in a whistleblower lawsuit -- not to mention the company's aggressive work to limit the development of generic alternatives to its cancer drugs. But the editorial board saved its most vicious bile for Hugin's decision to run TV ads alleging that Menendez frequented child prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, a claim based on a single anonymous source in the Menendez indictment.

"Which candidate is worse when it comes to personal ethics," writes the editorial board. "Ask a philosopher, because to us it seems neither man can claim much advantage."

So why then choose a candidate at all? And why Menendez? On the first front, the op-ed explains that voting is too important a right to give up. "Being a patriotic American is not just about fighting enemies abroad or helping flood victims at home," they write. "It's about making our democracy work, even when pulling the lever brings no joy."

On why Menendez, the answer is simple: Donald Trump. "The question is which candidate can best fight Trump's toxic policies, his grotesque appeals to racial and ethnic tribalism, and his corrosive attacks on the pillars of our democracy, starting with the rule of law," reads the piece, concluding that Menendez is clearly the better choice to fight Trump's policies.

Which, congratulations -- or something.

But trust me: You're not going to be seeing this "endorsement" in any ads for Menendez in the closing week of the Senate race.