Don’t count on it happening. Senator Bob Mendendez as already survived a recall effort, an FBI investigation while Chris Christie was U.S. Attorney, Tom Kean JR and Joe Kyrillos. There’s little reason, so far, to think Menendez won’t survive his latest scandals involving illegal campaign donations and gifts, a sex offender illegal immigrant intern and allegations of engaging with prostitutes and underage girls in the Dominican Republic.Why would Menedez resign? It’s not as if he tweeted nude pictures of himself, or anything as bad as that.
For a senator to be expelled requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. The Senate Select Committee on Ethics has not responded to State Senator Sam Thompson’s complaint about Menendez filed last November. There is no reason to think the Democratically controlled Senate will even consider censuring Menendez, much less expelling him, unless the FBI’s current investigation results in an indictment and/or conviction.
But if Menendez’s seat in the Senate were to become vacant this year, it would put New Jersey politics into a fabulous turmoil that would be fun to cover and generate unprecedented blog traffic. “Peter Williams,” if you’re reading, please cooperate with the FBI and bring the Domincan girls with you to the USofA!
If Menendez’s seat is open, Governor Christie appoints his replacement and there is a special election to fill the term on the next general election date. In order for that special election to take place this year, Menendez would have to leave office by mid-September. Christie would have a tough choice to make between Tom Kean JR and Joe Kyrillos. Other Republicans will ask Christie for the job, but given the Governor’s personal history with Kean and Kyrillos, the choice would probably come down to one of them. Whoever Christie chooses would become a de facto running mate this year.
There would be much more drama among the Democrats. Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone are currently campaigning to become New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator in anticipation of Frank Lautenberg retiring in 2014 rather than reprising Strom Thurmond or Weekend at Bernie’s. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver is making noise that she could be a candidate for Lautenberg’s seat. Senate President Steve Sweeney and former Acting Governor Richard Codey are also in the 2014 Senatorial mix. Should Menendez leave office in 2013, there would be a short fierce campaign among those Democrats for the nomination. Booker would be the favorite.
Ironically, a U.S. Senate campaign this year could be the answer to the New Jersey Democrats worst fears. Every Democrat except Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal expects a Christie led Republican rout over Barbara Buono in the gubernatorial race. Democrats fear that Christie’s coattails will swing one or both Houses of the Legislature into Republican control. Booker running for Governor was considered the Democrats best change of avoiding a down ballot rout. If Booker were suddenly on the ballot as a U.S. Senate candidate, his vow to finish his term as Newark’s mayor notwithstanding, the likelihood of the Republicans winning the State Senate or Assembly would be much lower.