U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) took aim at President Donald Trump and the NRA during his re-election kickoff at Union City High School this morning.Â
“There is a president in Washington who spends his days dividing us and distracting us but never delivering for us, who believes that being wealthy is the same thing as being worthy,” Menendez said in front of hundreds of students and dozens of Democratic elected officials.
“Under his watch, health care is getting more expensive, environmental protections are being gutted, women’s rights are under attack.”
Seeking his third full term this year, Menendez faces a formidable opponent in retired Celgene executive Bob Hugin, a multimillionaire Republican who is also a Union City native.
While the incumbent did not call out his opponent by name, he repeatedly drove home the point that the people of New Jersey need someone in the U.S. Senate that will stand up to Trump, not someone who will be complicit with his policies.
“I know candidates tell you that this election is the most important ever. But this year, whether you care about the safety of our schools, the health of our families, or the security of our nation: our votes have never mattered more,” Menendez exclaimed towards the tail end of his speech.
Hugin’s campaign was unimpressed, calling Menendez “corrupt” although hisÂ federal corruption trial ended in a hung jury last year and the government announced they would not retry the case in January.
â€œNew Jersey deserves a Senator as good as its people, not one trying to stay one step ahead of the law,â€ said Hugin Communications Director Megan Piwowar. â€œThis campaign will come down to the story of two Bobs.”
“We’re confident that New Jersey voters will say enough with Menendez’s failed, corrupt track record, and elect a Senator we can be proud of again, former Marine and business leader Bob Hugin who created thousands of New Jersey jobs.”
Currently still a heavy favorite to retain his seat in November, Menendez also catered to the youth on hand when he spoke out against the NRA.
“You’re tired of hearing that mass shootings and daily gun violence are just a fact of life. You’re tired of hearing that your lives don’t matter. And as your senator, I know you deserve better. That’s why I voted for the first assault weapons ban and have sponsored legislation to bring it back,” he said.
” .. You know, throughout my life, I worked hard for good grades, like I hope you’re doing here. But I’m proud to have a big fat F from the NRA!”
The NRA did not immediately return an inquiry seeking comment.
The senior senator’s reputation as a fighter was punctuated by other Democratic leaders such as state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and his colleague, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“There’s an old saying, if you kick a lion when he’s down, you’d better be careful when he stands up. Well I’m happy that Bob Menendez is standing up for New Jersey,” exclaimed an enthusiastic Booker.
“There’s an old saying that says that truth crushed to the Earth will rise again. Well I’m happy to say we have a champion fighting for the truth of New Jersey every single day.”
Other dignitaries in attendance included U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8), state Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-29, who served as the emcee), Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, West New York Mayor Felix Roque, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Freeholder Chairman Anthony Vainieri (D-8), Hoboken Councilwomen Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino, West New York Commissioners Gabriel Rodriguez and Cosmo Cirillo, former state Senate Majority Leader Bernie Kenny, among many, many others.