POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Menendez stands with faith leaders to counter ethics charges

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

If your opponent is calling you corrupt, it probably helps to stand with 50 men and women who believe in God and believe in you.

“He has not just been our friend, he has been our advocate, our warrior and our worker,” said Rev. Kenneth Clayton of St. Luke Baptist Church.

Sen. Bob Menendez was received warmly in Newark Monday morning at Metropolitan Baptist Church by 50 pastors of many faiths. They prayed together for Menendez’s re-election next month, a prospect that is no sure thing when you’re up against an opponent with money to burn.

“Whenever you have somebody who is a multimillionaire, who has spent already about $25 million just in TV alone in incredibly scurrilous attack ads, that hasn’t said one thing about what he’d do for the people of New Jersey, hasn’t given them a vision of what he’ll do in the United States Senate if he’s elected, hasn’t shown he’s willing to stand up to President Trump on some of the most pressing issues of the day — issues that are New Jersey specific — it’s always a challenge,” the Senator said.

Menendez is leading Republican Bob Hugin in the polls, but not by much. Some analysts have said urban turnout is essential if Menendez is to be sent back to Washington, and that’s also part of what the event was about.

“We believe Sen. Menendez has to go back. We have no options, no other choice. He must go back,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

They know who he’s running against.

“For every Bob Hugin, who embodies the spirit of Goliath, there is a Bob Menendez, who embodies the spirit of David,” said Rev. Golden Carmon, senior pastor at Mt. Zion AMEC of New Brunswick.

And they know who’s in the White House, a man one of them called a racist.

“Isn’t it a shame that he has not invited us to the White House, and I said, ‘Brother, it is not a shame. Sister, it is not a shame.’ You may not get invited to the White House, but we’re invited to the right house,”said the pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church, Rev. David Jefferson.

“I think that it speaks volumes that these incredible leaders of faith have stood with me because they know who I am,” Menendez said.

While Menendez was rallying with preachers, Hugin was dredging up an old allegation from an anonymous tipster.

“When will we as a society begin to believe women? To trust women?” Menendez says in the ad. “What a hypocrite,” the ad accuses. “What about the underage girls who accused you, according to the FBI?”

No charges were filed against Menendez and two women later recanted their stories.

At the end of the news conference, several clergymen led the group in some spontaneous prayer. Menendez looked emotional as the faith leaders prayed for his re-election.