Congressman Steve Rothman (NJ-9) wasted no time in endorsing Congressman Bob Menendez as his choice for Corzine’s vacant Senate seat. He begins with why he thinks Menendez would be a good choice (from a press release):
As the first person in his family to attend college, Bob Menendez has walked in the shoes of the average New Jerseyan and knows the challenges they face. While other politicians have talked about reform, Bob Menendez has actually lived it – he got into politics as a 19-year old college student leading a petition drive to reform a local school board. He showed his toughness and his independence early when he stood up to a corrupt mayor of Union City, testified against him in court, and had to wear a bulletproof vest because of threats to his life.
He continues with the REAL reasons why Menendez should be the pick:
He has a substantial head start in the fundraising race with $4.1 million in the bank, and has the national network in place to build on that success. The district that has sent Bob to Congress seven times is a powerful base for launching a statewide campaign. He represents portions of Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, and Union Counties which account for 42% of the votes in a Democratic primary and approximately 30% of the votes in a general election.
I’m curious to see how this plays out. If Menendez’s big sell is his money advantage and his ability to quickly line up support behind him, it will be similar in some ways to the way Corzine pushed Codey out of the primary race for governor. Many voters and editorial boards were upset at their options (I wasn’t), and unhappy with the influence of money in the state. Unfortunately, we live between the 1st and 4th most expensive media markets in the country, and being able to raise money is a reality any candidate must be able to deal with.
I met Menendez once a few weeks ago. We chit chat in Spanish for a little bit which was fun (I don’t get much practice any more), but we didn’t talk much. As a hispanic, I would like to see more minorities and women in positions of power. But much more importantly, I want a progressive Senator that represents me and is not beholden to anyone but the voters. I’m afraid that Menendez has already sold out his constituents to a higher bidder (in this case Wal-Mart) in order to fill his campaign coffers.
This is a much more serious issue than just accepting $12,500 from a corporation. It’s all about the implied promise of support that comes from that contribution (aka pay-to-play). The influence over our elected officials is strong. This is why people like Joe Biden (D-MBNA) voted for the disasterous bankruptcy bill. What kind of trade agreements would Wal-Mart pressure a Senator Menendez into agreeing to? Who knows – maybe he can’t be pressured into it, but given his history, that’s not a chance I’m willing to take.
UPDATE: As a Congressman, Menendez voted against NAFTA and was a leader in the fight opposing CAFTA. I still believe that Wal-Mart’s contributions to him led to, directly or indirectly, the opening of 4 new stores in and near his district.