New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has big plans for his son Robert Menendez Jr.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is trying to turn his New Jersey turf into an allotment garden as he seeks to plant his son in the House of Representatives seat he once held.

Despite a reach that ostensibly spans the globe, sources tell The Daily Beast that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee remains intensely focused on the 62 square miles of his home county of Hudson. And with his former ally, Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), who retired this year from the congressional district encompassing the county’s major population centers — the district the senator himself represented between 1993 and ​2006 – Menendez seems to have decided that his son and namesake should replace him.

And the Democratic Party seems to have done its bidding. Nationally, Robert Menendez Jr. received the support of the political action committee of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to which his father belongs. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy endorsed the 36-year-old for the seat even before he officially launched his campaign. But perhaps most importantly, Menendez Jr. has the support of the local community Hudson County Democratic Organizationwho has already obtained two of his best opponents kicked off the June 7 primary poll and is mobilizing its electoral army of municipal workers – many of whom are first- and second-generation immigrants from countries with shaky job protections for civil servants.

“He’s like an icon that everyone looks up to,” Agustin Torres, a award-winning retired journalist who covered the area for 45 years, said of Menendez Sr. “He’s a plum to give away just because he’s Menendez’s kid. He has not yet shown that he can rule anything.

Bob Menendez, with his son Robert and daughter Alicia by his side, speaks on his election night November 7, 2006 after defeating his Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr.

Daniel J. Barry/WireImage/Getty

None of Menendez’s spokespersons have officially responded to questions regarding this story.

The imminent coronation of the youngest (in a district so Democratic that the November election is a formality) has upset local editorial boards and progressive activists.

“People in Hudson County have become very cynical about the way politics works here,” warned Hector Oseguera, an attorney based in Union City, the senator’s hometown, who challenged Sires in 2020. Something like that feeds into this perception of politics: that the people who are governed by these politicians don’t have a say because there’s a club that makes all these decisions.

But the royal treatment might not scare the son so much, who seems to have been groomed for power from an early age. The scion attended the private Hudson School in Hoboken, where tuition and fees top $25,000 per year, more than half of average Hudson County residents annual revenue. His LinkedIn Profile shows he graduated straight from Rutgers Law in 2011 in Lowenstein Sandler, a white-shoe company known for its politically connected attorneys, who have included several running and former attorneys general of New Jersey and Biden Drug Enforcement Administrator Anne Milgram. His clients are often private companies with business before state. Lowenstein Sandler also belongs to a limited swimming pool legal teams approved to serve as counsel to New Jersey and its municipalities.

Senator Bob Menendez (C) arrives to stand trial on federal corruption charges with his children Alicia Menendez (L) and Robert Menendez, Jr. (R) at United States District Court in Newark, New Jersey, in 2017 .

REUTERS/Joe Penney

In 2018, NorthJersey.com identified Lowenstein Sandler as the senator’s biggest financier during his congressional career. The site also listed the company as one of the biggest contributors to its legal defense fund, which helped Menendez Sr. fend off federal corruption charges in 2017.

Shortly after landing in Lowenstein Sandler, Menendez Jr. abandoned his home state for Manhattan’s ultra-wealthy Upper West Side, though he wouldn’t be called to the New York bar until 2014.

When he finally returned to the Garden State towards the end of the decade, he and his wife moved into a condominium owned by the Silverman Building, whose owners are long-time donors to his father’s campaign and political action committees. Federal Election Commission records show that Menendez Jr. made several political contributions in 2019 from 1,045 square foot duplex facing south in downtown Jersey City, with its hardwood floors, marble bathroom with radiant heated tiles, Juliet balconies and views of the Statue of Liberty skyline.

But Hudson County property records show Menendez Jr. never purchased the unit in the historical, listed Majestic Theater Building, and neither his campaign nor Silverman would produce a lease or statement of payments for the units.

“I’m not going to give you that,” said Paul Silverman, one of the company’s directors. “It was market rent. I don’t need to give you more than that.

The arrangement came as little surprise to Torres, the veteran political columnist, who has previously included the Silvermans on his list of the most influential people in the region.

“Whoever is in power, or at the top of the leaderboard right now, is who they relate to,” he said, noting the founders’ long history of cultivating relationships with local authorities and nurturing them. with campaign gifts.

The great irony, according to insiders, is that despite all the efforts to secure Menendez Jr. Sires’ seat, the family’s original plan was not at all for him to run for Congress. And this, sources say, is because the elder Menendez groomed his son not just to be his heir, but the instrument of his revenge.

When the senator escaped the clutches of the Justice Department in November 2017, he stunned observers with a bitter talk outside the Newark Federal Courthouse.

“To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump in my seat,” Menendez Sr. warned. “I know who you are and I won’t forget you.”

Local outlets reported at the time, and sources recently confirmed to The Daily Beast, that the lawmaker’s remarks were at least in part aimed at Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who had taken interim steps to seek the Senate in the event of Menendez’s conviction. . Fulop’s team declined to comment for this story.

Legal database LexisNexis says Menendez Jr. moved to the Silverman condo in Jersey City the year after his father’s mistrial, and New Jersey Division of Elections records show his wife moved in. is registered to vote in the Garden State for the first time in May 2018. Two years after that, the couple bought a house a short distance from the Majestic Theater complex.

End of 2020, the word surfaced that Menendez Jr. was preparing to race against Fulop. And the following year, 10 months before the nonpartisan municipal vote, the tension between the senator and the mayor come out into the openwith Menendez Sr. attacking his fellow Democrat’s “broken promise record” and Fulop calling the senator “determined to force his son down the throats of Jersey City voters to expand his own political power.”

In March, Menendez Sr. moved his federal office from Newark to Jersey City, planting a taxpayer-funded foot in rival territory. Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea told The Daily Beast that several party actors urged him to personally meet with the senator’s son to talk him out of running, although he said the meeting had never taken place.

“I don’t think Menendez [Sr.] made bones about what it was; it was ticked off — and it was never told to me directly — that Steve was somehow coveting his Senate seat during his trial,” said O’Dea, who strove to point out that he found the young Menendez personally impressive. “I think that was blame for the problem. Everyone assumes based on Bob’s statement.

But for once, the Hudson County Democratic honchos challenged the senator and aligned themselves with Fulop. And the reason is the source of political power in the region.

The Democratic organization, as insiders described it to The Daily Beast, is less a machine than a contraption: 12 mayors from 12 municipalities operating like 12 Ferris wheels that, regardless of their personal enmities, spin unison to turn the motor. If the Hudson County Democratic Organization betrayed Fulop, these gears would jam and lose power in the state Democratic Party to the political dynamos of Newark and South Jersey.

“US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) leaves United States Court with his children Alicia Menendez and Robert Melendez, Jr., after his corruption trial ended in a mistrial in Newark, New Jersey, on November 16, 2017.

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

And so Menendez Jr. never filed for mayor. In April 2021, Governor Murphy named him to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Directors, which oversees the region’s shipping, rail and air hubs, which sources told The Daily Beast as a consolation prize. Murphy’s office insisted that Menendez Jr.’s background as a corporate lawyer made him “an ideal candidate” for the role.

But after refusing the senator once, the local eminences did not dare to start again. And so the fight for Sires seat was over before he announced his retirement last december. Even Fulop lined up behind the senator’s son.

For critics of the system, it was just a sign that politics as usual had returned to New Jersey. After all, when Menendez Sr. was nominated to the Senate to replace former Gov. Jon Corzine, the county establishment made sure Sires replaced him in the House of Representatives.

“It sort of works like a 17th century feudal empire, where everyone inherits power,” said Oseguera, the former insurgent. “Usually it’s a lackey of the system that’s brought up. This time it’s the son of a senator.

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