United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2006
|Elections in New Jersey|
The 2006 United States Senate election in New Jersey was held November 7, 2006. Incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez was elected to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate for a six-year term which ended in January 2013. The seat was previously held by Democratic Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine. After he stepped down from his Senate seat and was sworn in Governor, Corzine appointed Rep. Menendez, who was sworn in on January 18, 2006. Menendez was challenged by Republican Thomas Kean, Jr. and seven other candidates. Filing for the primary closed on April 10, 2006. The primary election was held June 6, 2006. Menendez became the first Hispanic to hold a U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey, and was the first Latino elected to statewide office in the state.
- James Kelly, former gubernatorial candidate
- Bob Menendez, incumbent U.S. Senator
Menendez won the Democratic primary, with 86% of the vote, against James D. Kelly, Jr.
Ginty represented the conservative wing of the New Jersey Republican party. Kean is a moderate, who is the son of the former Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean. Important factors in Kean's primary victory were his father's name recognition, along with Kean's self-described persona as a clean-cut corruption fighter.
A showdown between Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) conservatives and a group of insurgent moderate Republican critics ignited into a shoving match between supporters, with Kean temporarily refusing to accept the BCRO's endorsement of his candidacy, and refusing to run with the BCRO slate of nominees for the offices of County Executive, Surrogate, and Freeholder. As a result, Ginty was drafted by Bergen County conservatives to fill out the conservative slate of candidates in Bergen County for the Republican primary. Kean eventually accepted the BCRO endorsement.
Ginty's entrance into the primary complicated matters for Kean, who had to consider moving to the right to secure the Republican nomination, something that would likely hamper his chances of defeating Menendez in November. Kean's supporters have argued there is virtually no chance for a pro-life, anti-gay marriage Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey, where 66% of the voters are self-identified as pro-choice and polls illustrate a distinct majority support gay marriage.
On March 20, 2006, Kean arrived late to a fundraising event for his campaign, after featured guest Vice President Dick Cheney had left, which some accused of him doing deliberately to avoid photographs of the two, together, that could be printed in the media.
On March 27, 2006, at a news conference billed as a "major announcement", Kean called for state and federal tax cuts, asking Menendez and Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine to support them. In response, Matthew Miller, a spokesman for Menendez, said the U.S. senator supports "balanced tax cuts," not just ones that benefit the wealthiest Americans while expanding national debt.
On April 1, 2006, at the Middlesex County Republican Convention, Kean won the endorsement for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate (in other words, Kean was chosen as the county organization's recommended candidate for the June primary) over Ginty by a vote of 79% to 21%. However, the deadline for local Republicans to register to attend the convention had passed before Ginty announced his candidacy.
The New Jersey Right To Life Political Action Committee endorsed Ginty on April 27, 2006.
On May 2, 2006, Ginty publicly called on Kean to stop soliciting the endorsement of the Sierra Club. Ginty said Kean should not seek their endorsement because the Sierra Club is an "environmental extremist group with a deep history of involvement in left-wing causes".
Kean won by a 3-1 margin.
- Daryl Mikell Brooks (Poor People's Campaign), candidate for NJ-12 in 2004
- J.M. Carter (God We Trust), minister and candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 
- Len Flynn (New Jersey Libertarian Party), activist 
- Ed Forchion (Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.))
- Angela L. Lariscy (Socialist Workers Party), sewing machine operator and trade unionist 
- Gregory Pason (Socialist Party USA), activist and former union official 
- N. Leonard Smith (Solidarity, Defend Life), retired teacher, Korean War veteran and former member of the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders 
- Anthony B. Fisher (Results, Not Rhetoric)
In a September 2006 poll, SurveyUSA found that Governor Jon Corzine received an approval rate of only 43%, with 48% of the state disapproving. Since Menendez had been appointed by Corzine, some pundits argued that this would be a resonating factor with a number of voters.
According to a separate September 2006 poll, SurveyUSA found that the state of New Jersey had a rather high disapproval rating for Republican President George W. Bush, with 64% disapproving and only 32% approving. This led some to argue that voters would take their discontent with Bush out on Kean in the November election.
Indeed, some pollsters demonstrated that concerns over the Iraq War and discontent with President Bush solidified the Democratic base in October's advertising blitz, and won over enough independents to seal of fate of the Republican nominee. On the eve of the election, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Poll reported that 65% likely voters said that the US invasion of Iraq was a mistake, "including nine of ten Democrats and six of ten independents." Observers also pointed out that "from the beginning, [Menendez] made much of his 2002 vote against the Iraq War Resolution, often referring to it as one of the most important votes of his career. He made it clear as well that he intended to make the race a referendum on the President."
Others attributed Kean's early strong showing in the polls of this blue state to uninformed voters confusing the three-year state senator with his father, the popular former governor and 9/11 Commission chairman.
On June 13, 2006, Kean held a fundraiser in Ocean County featuring First Lady Laura Bush. It was here that both Senator Kean and Mrs. Bush pointed out that Kean is not George W. Bush, claiming that Senator Menendez seems to confuse the two.
On June 16, 2006 at a New Jersey Association of Counties speaking event in Atlantic City, Kean and his aides beat a hasty retreat from the ballroom engagement and "stampeded" into an elevator in an abortive attempt to avoid the press, only to exit on the same floor as they had entered. Kean declined to answer questions about the scathing attacks on his integrity which his opponent had delivered minutes earlier, instead opting to repeat "a few slogans."
In late June, the Associated Press reported that Kean's campaign was planning a "Swift Boat"-style film accusing Menendez of involvement in a New Jersey mob-connected kickback scheme "despite public records and statements disputing that claim." The AP article noted that "[f]our former federal prosecutors who oversaw the case have said Menendez was never involved in any wrongdoing." The airing of unsubstantiated [by whom?] allegations years or even decades old is a hallmark of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign attack style, which gained notoriety during the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
In mid-September, The Star-Ledger reported that Sen. Menendez had declined a national debate with Kean on the popular Sunday morning talk-show, Meet the Press. A Menendez spokesperson stated that the incumbent Democrat would prefer to focus on local citizens and press. Menendez did agree to take place in three locally aired debates with Kean, which will be aired between October 7–17. Kean withdrew from one of the scheduled debates to which he had previously committed, an October 14, 2006, debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, insisting on a national TV debate as a condition of his participation.
Both candidates have agreed to participate in a virtual debate sponsored by the nonpartisan Hall Institute of Public Policy - New Jersey which provides "an unprecedented opportunity for candidates and citizens to engage in an interactive forum on the important issues confronting" New Jersey. Beginning in July and running through Election Day in November, the institute will submit questions to the candidates and then post their responses on its website. As of October 6, 2006, responses to six questions have been posted (see External Links below).
The Kean headquarters was vandalized during the night before the general election. Vandals chained and locked the doors to the headquarters and broke off keys within the locks, attempting to hinder the Kean campaign. The Menendez campaign has denied any involvement.
During 26 years in politics, Menendez has faced some unflattering editorials and reports in local newspapers. In 2005, op-eds in the New York Times and Star-Ledger have complained of bossism by Menendez, claiming he runs Hudson County as a political machine. The Bergen Record has made an issue of his campaign spending, claiming the majority of his recent spending is not for traditional campaign activities such as advertising. Despite the allegations noted above, Menendez had never been charged or prosecuted for any crime related to his 26-year political career. Indeed, a New York Times article in June 2006, reported that the charges of ethical misconduct conflict with historical accounts and records which portray Menendez as crusading against the very corruption of which he stands accused.
On August 27, 2006, two Republican state lawmakers filed an ethics complaint against Menendez, alleging he broke conflict-of-interest rules when he collected more than $300,000 in rent over a period of nine years from a nonprofit agency which he aided in winning millions of dollars from federal funds. Menendez questioned the timing of the complaints, based on events of 14 years ago, so close to the election: "We have seen an orchestrated series of leaks, bogus ethics complaints and outright fabrications since the beginning of this campaign." The ethics complaint stated that Menendez's actions while a Congressman violated the ethics rules of the House of Representatives. For his part, Menendez maintains that he received verbal clearance from the House Ethics Committee in 1994 before entering a lease agreement with the organization. On September 8, Menendez identified Mark Davis as the committee lawyer whom he consulted. However, Roll Call reported that Davis left the ethics committee in 1993, prompting Menendez campaign spokesman Matt Miller to offer an alternate explanation: "It was his recollection that he talked to him about this, but it must have been someone else. It was 12 years ago." Governor Corzine, who appointed Menendez in January to serve out the remaining year of his own Senate term, said the investigation "has the appearance of being less than objective". Meanwhile, in response to charges of Republican complicity in spurring the investigation, Tom Kean said his campaign "absolutely" did not have any contact at any point with the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the probe.
As of September 2008, the NJ US Attorney's repeated and multiple investigations of Menendez's alleged corruption have still failed to generate a single indictment.
On September 28, 2006, The Star-Ledger reported that Sen. Menendez had fired his closest political adviser for seeking favors on behalf of then-Representative Menendez. A tape recorded in 1999 reveals the adviser, Donald Scarinci, asking a Hudson County psychiatrist named Oscar Sandoval to hire another physician as a favor to Menendez. He also states that he had helped Davila Colon, who worked in Menendez's congressional office from 1992–1997, get a job with Carl Goldberg, a developer and big fundraiser for Bob Menendez. A spokesperson for the Menendez campaign stated that "Scarinci was using Menendez's name without his authorization or his knowledge."
On September 15, 2006, The Star-Ledger reported, "the same day state Sen. Tom Kean voted twice to let Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey keep a $40 million tax exemption, he collected $13,300 in contributions for his U.S. Senate race from 17 company executives and their family members. Kean cast the votes on the final day of the fight over the 2005 state budget and on the day of those votes, records show Kean received $13,300 in campaign donations from the Horizon executives, including $4,100 from Horizon CEO and president William Marino and his wife, Paula. The news report noted, "Aides to Kean said there was no connection between the votes and the contributions."
Democratic-advocacy site Blue Jersey alleged that a member of the Kean campaign was posing as a disillusioned Democrat when posting comments critical of Menendez on the site. The Kean campaign denied the charges, but major newspapers (such as the New York Times and the Star-Ledger) reported that the IP address used to make the comments was identical to one used by Kean campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker in official emails. The Kean campaign could not explain this discrepancy, but both Hazelbaker and Kean denied that she had been involved. The same IP address was also used to make multiple edits to Wikipedia pages linking Menendez to the accusations of corruption that were a centerpiece of Kean's campaign strategy.
The Kean campaign also drew scrutiny over its relationship with opposition researcher Christopher Lyon. Kean staffers denied that Lyon worked for Kean directly. A New York Times article about Lyon's role includes Hazelbaker's response to the issue:
"I think the selective outrage here is a little laughable," said Hazelbaker, a Kean spokeswoman, who added that Mr. Menendez's former law partner, who was at his side when he was sworn in as a senator, had been convicted of dealing cocaine.
According to the New York Times, Kean was defeated in part because he "built a campaign around his portrayal of Mr. Menendez as a shady, self-dealing, machine-produced Hudson County boss who hangs out with criminals. When asked about his views on Social Security or the Iraq war, Mr. Kean frequently mentioned that his opponent was 'under federal criminal investigation.' " In a poll, NJ voters tended to blame Kean rather than Menendez for negative campaigning. A later NY Times editorial stated, "The Republican candidate, Thomas Kean Jr., based his campaign almost exclusively on negative ads and attack-dog accusations against his Democratic opponent, Robert Menendez. For a while, it looked like the strategy might pay off, but in the end Senator Menendez was elected by a comfortable margin. Voters in several polls criticized Mr. Kean’s strategy."
According to one observer, the Democratic candidate framed his race as referendum on the Republican president and the US military involvement in Iraq. Menendez, while still in the House of Representatives, voted against the Iraq War Resolution of 2002. He subsequently argued that, "even knowing that there were no weapons of mass destruction, Tom Kean Jr. has continually said he supports the war in Iraq and would have voted for it." Kean responded that Menendez "has traditionally been on the fringe of his own party. The case [for war] was clearly made with people who had far better information than he did." Kean's strategy was "to make the race on state level issues: corruption and taxes." But though voters thought the state was headed in the wrong direction, the Democratic governor's approval ratings among likely voters was strong headed into the November election.
The Sierra Club, which had endorsed both candidates in some of their past races, endorsed Menendez for the Senate, citing his "15-year, extremely strong record on many federal [environmental] issues -- often achieving a League of Conservation Voters voting record of 100%."
The New Jersey Educational Association PAC's Operating Committee (NJEA PAC) also endorsed Menendez.
Since the publication of an August 4, 2006, Rasmussen poll showing Menendez ahead, 44% to Kean's 38%, Kean appeared to surge into the lead according to subsequent Zogby, Monmouth, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, and Fairleigh Dickinson polls, outpolling Menendez by varying differences within the margin of error. However, on the heels of an advertising blitz, Menendez has reclaimed the lead in the most recent FDU, Mason-Dixon, Gallup, and Zogby polling. In light of to the race's volatility, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, Congressional Quarterly, and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball shifted the race from "Leans Democratic" to "Toss-Up" or "No Clear Favorite" in their early September revisions despite the state's historically strong Democratic tilt.
New Jerseyans had not seen a summer poll with a Republican leading in a race for United States Senator since 1972, when incumbent Clifford Case led former Congressman Paul Krebs by a 44%-22% margin. (Case won the race 63%-35%.) Here are some past summer polling numbers from the Eagleton Institute archive:
- 1990: Incumbent Bill Bradley led Christine Todd Whitman by 46 points, 62%-16%. Bradley won in November by a 50%-47% margin.
- 1994: Incumbent Frank Lautenberg was ahead of Assembly Speaker Chuck Haytaian by a 55%-29% margin, and won 50%-47%.
- 1996: In the race between two Congressmen for Bradley's open seat, Democrat Bob Torricelli led Republican Dick Zimmer by eight points, 39%-31%. Torricelli won, 53%-43%.
- 2000: Competing for Lautenberg's open seat, former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine had an eight-point lead over GOP Congressman Bob Franks, 39%-31%. Corzine won the seat, 50%-47%.
- 2002: Incumbent Bob Torricelli led Republican Douglas Forrester by fourteen points, 43%-29%. By the end of September, Forrester had seized the lead and Torricelli withdrew. Frank Lautenberg entered the race in his place, and won the seat by ten points, 54%-44%.
|Source||Date||Menendez (D)||Kean Jr. (R)|
|Quinnipiac||November 22, 2005||41%||39%|
|Rasmussen||December 7, 2005||38%||34%|
|Quinnipiac||December 15, 2005||44%||38%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||January 16, 2006||25%||37%|
|Rasmussen||January 25, 2006||35%||42%|
|Quinnipiac||January 25, 2006||38%||36%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||February 8, 2006||28%||33%|
|Rasmussen||February 14, 2006||39%||36%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||March 6, 2006||42%||37%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||March 10, 2006||30%||32%|
|Quinnipiac||March 20, 2006||40%||36%|
|Rasmussen||March 31, 2006||39%||41%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||April 4, 2006||40%||35%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||April 6, 2006||38%||42%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||April 14, 2006||32%||34%|
|Rasmussen||April 18, 2006||36%||43%|
|Quinnipiac||April 18–24, 2006||40%||34%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||May 12–14, 2006||35%||35%|
|Rasmussen||May 26, 2006||37%||40%|
|Quinnipiac||June 7–13, 2006||43%||36%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||June 16–18, 2006||38%||36%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||June 23, 2006||42%||38%|
|Rasmussen||June 27, 2006||46%||40%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||July 12, 2006||43%||37%|
|Monmouth University||July 17, 2006||38%||37%|
|Quinnipiac||July 17, 2006||38%||40%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||July 20, 2006||43%||40%|
|Public Opinion Strategies (R)||August 2, 2006||38%||39%|
|Rasmussen||August 4, 2006||44%||38%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||August 17, 2006||42%||40%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||August 30, 2006||39%||43%|
|Rasmussen||August 31, 2006||39%||44%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||September 14, 2006||40%||44%|
|Quinnipiac||September 20, 2006||45%||48%|
|Monmouth University||September 24, 2006||38%||44%|
|Rasmussen||September 25, 2006||40%||41%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||September 28, 2006||45%||44%|
|WNBC/Marist Poll||September 30, 2006||37%||42%|
|Mason-Dixon/MSNBC||October 2, 2006||44%||41%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||October 5, 2006||41%||46%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||October 5, 2006||46%||39%|
|Reuters/Zogby||October 5, 2006||46%||35%|
|USA Today/Gallup||October 6, 2006||46%||43%|
|Quinnipiac||October 12, 2006||49%||45%|
|Rasmussen||October 14, 2006||42%||39%|
|Monmouth University||October 22, 2006||48%||39%|
|Mason-Dixon/McClatchy-MSNBC||October 24, 2006||45%||42%|
|Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg||October 24, 2006||45%||41%|
|Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal (D)||October 23–25, 2006||45%||36%|
|Rasmussen||October 25, 2006||45%||45%|
|CBS News/New York Times||October 26, 2006||40%||39%|
|Rasmussen||October 30, 2006||49%||44%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||October 31, 2006||43%||42%|
|CNN/Opinion Research Corporation||October 31, 2006||51%||44%|
|Quinnipiac||October 31, 2006||49%||44%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||November 2, 2006||46%||42%|
|Reuters/Zogby International||November 2, 2006||49%||37%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson/PublicMind||November 2, 2006||48%||38%|
|Rasmussen||November 3, 2006||48%||43%|
|WNBC/Marist Poll||November 4, 2006||50%||42%|
|Monmouth University/Gannett||November 5, 2006||45%||42%|
|Mason-Dixon/MSNBC-McClatchy||November 5, 2006||48%||41%|
|USA Today/Gallup||November 5, 2006||50%||40%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||November 6, 2006||49%||42%|
|Quinnipiac||November 6, 2006||48%||43%|
|OnPoint Polling and Research||November 6, 2006||50%||41%|
|Democratic||Bob Menendez (Incumbent)||1,200,843||53.3%||+3.1%|
|Republican||Thomas Kean, Jr.||997,775||44.3%||-2.8%|
|Independent||N. Leonard Smith||6,243||0.3%|
|Socialist Workers||Angela Lariscy||3,433||0.2%||+0.1%|
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- Cheney, but no candidate, at fundraiser, United Press International, March 21, 2006
- Tom Kean for U.S. Senate press release
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- Jim Dwyer, "New Jersey Senator's Rival Faults Him in 80's Corruption Case, but History Disagrees", New York Times, June 25, 2006
- Menendez questions timing of reported federal probe, Press of Atlantic City, September 8, 2006
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- Edits made by 22.214.171.124, Wikipedia, September 21, 2006
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- Peter J. Woolley, "Menendez v. Kean: National versus Local Issues in New Jersey," in The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of the George W. Bush Presidency, Larry J. Sabato, ed. (New York: Pearson, 2008), p. 248.
- "Garden State Grapple", from Newsweek Politics on MSNBC website, September 15, 2006
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