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NJ election at a glance; Sen. Menendez faces tough challenge

November 3, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey voters will decide whether embattled two-term Democrat Bob Menendez should return to the U.S. Senate and will also settle races for the state’s 12 U.S. House seats in Tuesday’s election.

Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

The only question on the ballot is whether to approve $500 million in new debts for school security, vocational schools, county colleges and water infrastructure.

The contest between Menendez and Republican Bob Hugin unexpectedly narrowed as Hugin’s massive self-financing effort relentlessly highlighted the corruption case that federal prosecutors brought against Menendez and later dropped.

A Democratic loss in a state where the party is so dominant would be crushing for the party.

In races for the House, Democrats are looking to flip several seats. They now hold seven of 12.

A look at the Senate race, and what are shaping up to be some of the key House contests:

SENATE

Menendez survived a public corruption trial in which prosecutors charged he took lavish gifts and got campaign contributions in return for helping his friend, a Florida eye doctor, with a Medicare billing issue. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict in 2017 and the government dropped the case this year.

But the case led the Senate Ethics Committee to admonish Menendez and say he brought discredit upon the chamber. Menendez has consistently denied any wrongdoing, though in the weeks before the election, he apologized to voters. He urged them to focus on his decades of public service, including his work drafting the Affordable Care Act, and return him to office.

Hugin, a wealthy former executive at drugmaker Celgene, has tapped his own funds for more than $30 million to finance TV ads to portray Menendez as corrupt. The torrent of cash has put Menendez on the defensive in a state where Democrats have over 900,000 more voters than Republicans.

A super PAC tied to Senate Democrats promised $3 million to help, and another outside group that has attacked Hugin over his firm’s raising prices of a cancer drug has spent seven figures as well.

President Donald Trump’s low approval rating in the state could buoy Menendez. Hugin stresses that he’s “no Trump Republican,” though he contributed to Trump’s presidential campaign and served as a delegate at the party convention in 2016.

There are also six other candidates on the ballot. They are Tricia Flanagan, running on a slogan of New Day NJ; Madelyn Hoffman of the Green Party; Kevin Kimple whose slogan is Make It Simple; Natalie Lynn Rivera, running under the slogan For the People; Libertarian Party candidate Murray Sabrin; and Hank Schroeder, whose slogan is Economic Growth.

HOUSE RACES TO WATCH

2nd District: Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s decision to retire this year gave a boost to Democrats. Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who has a conservative voting record in the Democrat-led Legislature, faces former Atlantic City and County official Seth Grossman. Grossman is an avid Trump supporter, though the GOP’s House campaign arm dropped support of him over his sharing of a social media post that disparaged black people. Grossman said he hadn’t read the whole thing and shared it because it was also posted by former GOP Rep. Allen West, who is black.

3rd District: Two-term Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur faces Democrat Andy Kim in the sprawling southern New Jersey district that spans Philadelphia and New York media markets. MacArthur helped write the amendment that helped push a GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act through the House. He was also the only lawmaker from New Jersey to vote for the 2017 tax overhaul. Kim, who has never held office, is a former Obama administration national security aide.

7th District: Republican Rep. Leonard Lance is seeking his sixth term against Democrat Tom Malinowski. Lance has distanced himself from Trump in the northern New Jersey district that narrowly supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Malinowski served as the assistant secretary of state for human rights under Barack Obama.

11th District: GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring after 12 terms. Democrat Mikie Sherrill faces Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber in the northern New Jersey district that centers on Morris County. She’s a veteran of the Navy, where she flew choppers, and later served as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey. Webber is an attorney and has served in the Legislature for a decade. She’s raised more money than he has. Webber has received Trump’s endorsement via Twitter, where the president called him “outstanding.”

BALLOT QUESTION

The constitution requires new debts obtain voter approval.

Specifically, $350 million would be used to provide grants to county vocational school districts and school security projects. Also, $50 million would go to county college projects and $100 million would go to support water infrastructure projects across the state’s more than 600 school districts.

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