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Metro&Beyond: Prosecution Dropped; Menendez Favored to Win Reelection

Jacob Kornbluh

Though a recent poll showed that 51% of New Jerseyans think Menendez doesn’t deserve reelection, New Jersey leans Democratic and no strong Republican challenger has emerged

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

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S en. Bob Menendez will not face a second trial after all.

Though federal prosecutors had announced they would retry the two-term senator after his first trial on bribery charges ended in a hung jury in November 2017, a judge recently dismissed a key allegation against the New Jersey senator, leading the US Justice Department to drop its case.

“From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail,” Menendez said in a statement last week. “I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion. I thank G-d for hearing my prayers and for giving me strength during this difficult time.”

Menendez still faces possible censure from his Senate colleagues. The Senate Ethics Committee announced in November it would launch an inquiry into Menendez’s alleged misconduct.

The 12-year incumbent is still a favorite to win reelection in 2018. Though a recent poll showed that 51% of New Jerseyans think Menendez doesn’t deserve reelection, New Jersey leans Democratic and no strong Republican challenger has emerged. “It’s game over,” Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray said. “The case is literally closed, not just in federal court but also in terms of its impact on the campaign.”

The pro-Israel senior senator, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has blamed the Obama administration for launching a politically motivated investigation against him over his vocal opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. “I will never shy away from standing up to any president of any party,” Menendez said at AIPAC’s annual policy conference last year. “And while I have paid a price for my beliefs, I would do it all over again.”

NORPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, held several fundraisers for Menendez during his trial to aid in his legal defense. In a statement, NORPAC said it was pleased by the Justice Department announcement. “We look forward to the senator resuming his normal duties and continue to work with him on further strengthening US-Israel relations.”

Rosh Hashanah and Election Day Don’t Mix

New York City officials are urging state lawmakers to reschedule primary elections in September, citing a conflict with Rosh Hashanah.

Statewide primary elections are scheduled for September 11, the second Tuesday of the month, which coincides this year with the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Legislation introduced in the state senate by Senator Todd Kaminsky and in the state assembly by Assemblyman Bobby Carroll would change the date to Thursday, September 13.

“New Yorkers should never have to choose between voting and observing their faith,” Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement, following a campaign launched by the Brooklyn Young Democrats’ Jewish Caucus. “At a time when voter engagement is exceptionally low, New York needs to do better.”

In a letter last week, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James urged Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Co-Leader John Flanagan to pass legislation that would automatically permit the Board of Elections to change an election date whenever it conflicts with a major religious holiday.

Jewish voters in New York state make up between 10% and 12% of the electorate on primary day, according to exit polls in recent elections. While there is no set timeline for the bill’s consideration, it is expected to pass in both bodies. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 697)

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