Former Celgene CEO Bob Hugin announces run for U.S. Senate

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

New Jersey Republicans suddenly have a formidable U.S. Senate candidate. Bob Hugin just retired as CEO of Celgene pharmaceuticals.

“We’re all here today because we’re from New Jersey. We love New Jersey, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m going to do today,” said Hugin.

He has told party leaders, a number of whom were in attendance Tuesday, he’s prepared to spend $20 million of his own money on a campaign. He described the state of affairs in New Jersey these days as “not great.”

“Many of those in New Jersey who can afford to move to lower-tax states are plotting that move. And many of us New Jerseyans that don’t have that opportunity to move, wish they could move to lower-tax states. We can and we must do better in Washington, D.C. for all of the people in New Jersey. We need change. And that’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for the U.S. Senate,” said Hugin.

Assuming he wins a primary, Hugin would face Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who has just come through a grueling trial on corruption charges. Menendez was cleared, but his reputation is weakened.

“We will make the case loud and clear that New Jersey deserves better from our next senator. New Jersey deserves a senator as good as its people, not one working to stay one step ahead of the law,” said Hugin.

Ironically, Hugin and Menendez both hail from Union City. Hugin went on to Princeton University, then to the Marine Corps.

“I learned about leadership. I learned that leaders go to where the problems are to make a difference. They don’t go to the places where everything is running great. They go where people need help and where you can make a difference,” said Hugin.

He did graduate work at the University of Virginia, worked in financial services, then went to Celgene as COO in 1999.

“Celgene is one of the leading bio-pharma anti-cancer companies in the world, doing amazing things for patients’ lives, has transformed multiple cancers to chronic disease, is on the verge of curing several cancers,” said Hugin.

Hugin referred to President Trump just once, when he promised to be an independent senator.

“If Gov. Murphy or Sen. Booker have a good idea that makes sense for New Jersey, I will stand up and support them. If Donald Trump or any other Republican has an idea or a view that’s bad for New Jersey, I will forcefully stand up and disagree with them,” said Hugin.

Hugin said the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions in the new tax law was bad for New Jersey, and that Menendez should have been at the table arguing for $15,000 or $20,000. His political consultant was asked about the Trump factor.

“This is not a referendum on Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell. This is a referendum on Bob Hugin and Bob Menendez, and that’s what we’re looking forward to,” said a political consultant for Hugin’s campaign, Chris Russell.

At this stage of his life, Hugin said, staying on the sidelines is not an option.

“I have the experience. I have the skills. And the track record of helping others. It’s my time to step up and make a difference for all New Jerseyans right now,” said Hugin.

Following tradition, Hugin made this announcement in the North Jersey media market, then went south to Delran to do it again for the Philadelphia media. With his wealth and his resume, it looks like New Jersey has a real senate race this year.