Menendez filed an independent re-election bid in the New Jersey Senate race

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a lifelong Democrat who is in the fourth week of a federal bribery investigation, filed papers Monday to run for re-election as an independent in November.

70 year old Mr. Menendez, seeking to campaign again, raises the prospect of a split Democratic vote in November. ElectionThat creates a wide path for the Republican nominee at a time when Democrats are struggling to maintain their narrow majority in the Senate.

Mr. Menendez has been abandoned by most of the state’s leading Democrats, who called for his immediate resignation after his indictment last year on corruption charges. He declined to step down, but did not intend to run in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

However, he hasn’t closed the door on running as an independent — which has helped him continue to raise and spend campaign contributions on lawyers hired to defend him and his wife, Nadine Menendez, who is accused in a bribery conspiracy.

His trial is likely to last at least another month; He has until mid-August to withdraw from the November 5 election.

Mr. The leading Democratic candidate for Menendez’s seat, Rep. Andy Kim, was quick to criticize the embattled senator as selfish.

“Everybody knows that Bob Menendez is not running for NJ families,” said Mr. Kim wrote on social media. “He’s running for himself. People are fed up with politicians putting their own interests ahead of what’s right for the country.

Spokesmen for Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, and the Senate Democratic campaign arm in Washington both declined to comment.

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Several Republicans are vying for the Senate nomination in Tuesday’s primary election. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans New Jersey By more than 900,000 voters, it’s been half a century since a liberal-leaning government elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate.

However, Mike Berg, a spokesman for the Republican Party’s national campaign operations, said the party is “watching New Jersey closely.”

This action Mr. Menendez’s son, Rep. Rob Menendez, looks awkward ahead of the Democratic primary against Hoboken Mayor Ravi Balla, NJ.

Representative Menendez, 38, has worked to distance herself from her father’s legal troubles and has not been accused of wrongdoing. A congressional aide had no immediate comment on the senator’s plans or how they might affect his son’s ability to win re-election to a second term. But the continued public focus on the senator’s legal troubles has made his son’s re-election battle more difficult.

It is unclear how the senator will successfully run the campaign. He has no paid campaign staff and a rapidly shrinking campaign war room. His chief of staff, Jason Teuber, is leaving for a lobbyist job at a New Jersey-based snack manufacturer, and two of his top Senate communications staffers left a few months ago. He has spent the least $3 million His campaign contributions to lawyers defending him against charges that he interfered in criminal investigations in New Jersey, aided Egypt and attempted to appear to owe bribes and obstructed justice.

Polls show roughly that 75 percent of New Jersey residents Already convinced he was guilty of the charges, and an equal percentage said they disapproved of his performance in the Senate, further bolstering his chances of winning as an independent.

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Several people presented petitions of recommendation to the State Department in Trenton, NJ, on Monday afternoon on behalf of Senator Menendez, who was in a courtroom all day in Manhattan.

Filings showed he collected 2,465 signatures – Three times the required minimum. Opponents have until June 10 to challenge their validity.

After court on Monday, Senator Menendez confirmed that he had personally collected the signatures. He reiterated that he expected to be released, and listed the many ways he helped New Jerseyans in times of real need during his time in Congress.

He said he hoped the trial would go well.

“We’re discrediting the government’s witnesses,” he said, speaking in Spanish in response to a question from a Spanish-speaking reporter. “We make them our witnesses, we show our innocence.”

People familiar with the re-election filing said many of the signatures came from residents of northern Hudson County, where the senator was raised and got his start in politics as mayor of Union City.

In fact, on Friday night, he was in Union City, eating at one of his favorite Cuban restaurants, La Gran Via.

“He’s been a friend of this place for a long time,” said restaurant owner Alfredo Curtado.

Coincidentally, the current mayor of Union City, Brian Stock – one of Rep. Menendez’s biggest campaign boosters – was dining there at the same time that Mr. Guardado said.

The two did not eat together.

Nicholas Fantos, Benjamin Weiss, Erin Nolan And Louis Ferre-Saturni Contributed report.

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