With the nonstop Trump-a-palooza of news coverage, the upcoming corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has gone largely unreported. As it stands, Menendez has been hit with 14 federal corruption charges and is very much in danger of being forced out of his Senate seat which would almost immediately deal a blow to Democrats in the short term. The kicker in this is that Republican Governor Chris Christie would be picking a replacement for Menendez, and he’s even legally able to pick himself. Christie was passed over for a job in the Trump administration, but maybe he’d enjoy being Senator Christie until a special election would let voters decided on a replacement.
Report from Salon.com:
With the upcoming corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., set to begin on September 6, Democrats may be faced with a precarious situation that could not only cost them a crucial seat in the Senate but see it taken by Governor Chris Christie.
Prosecutors hit Menendez with 14 federal corruption charges. He stands accused of “using his position to advance the interests of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a friend and political patron, in exchange for luxury vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign support,” the New York Times reported.
If Menendez, for whatever reason, left the Senate before early January, New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie would hold the power to appoint an interim replacement. Christie holds the record for having the lowest approval rating of any governor in the nation for the last 20 years, but he’s well known for his politics of vengeance and blatant disregard for his own constituents. It’s almost a guarantee that he would help out his longtime friend, President Donald Trump, by appointing a Republican — despite their recent spats. It’s also possible that Christie appoints himself, which he has the power to do.
As Salon also notes, the Obamacare repeal failed by 1 vote. Flipping Menendez’s seat could give the GOP the extra vote needed to pass some of their stalled agenda.
“This one vote, this one vote — if he’s convicted or does a plea deal — could change the course of history on Obamacare. It’s remarkable,” Steve Lonegan, a New Jersey Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Senate three years ago, told the Times.
He added, “That’s a big ‘if.’”
There is also the possibility that the trial unfolds and Menendez is found not guilty, or perhaps takes a light plea deal at some point, which means nothing changes. As it stands, unless some very damning evidence comes out or it looks like Menendez is headed for conviction, he’ll be holding on to this seat until the bitter end and Democrats will work tirelessly to keep him there and prevent a Christie appointment.
However, if Menendez resigns or is forced out of his position sometime in the next few months, a Chrristie-appointed Republican Senator could be sitting in that seat for quite a long time. The Governor has the power to set a date for the special election to replace an outgoing Senator, but he could choose to delay the special election until November of 2018 which would essentially give Republicans an extra vote for at least a year.