Trump endorses Hugin in closely watched Senate race

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Sen. Bob Menendez dropped into Bergen County’s Democratic headquarters and thanked workers for calling to get out the vote. He also appreciated a tweet from Donald Trump, who Tuesday afternoon tweeted his “complete and total endorsement” of Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin. “Thank you” Menendez tweeted back.

“It’s what I thought all along, but I didn’t think they were going to reveal it. They did, so good. Now we know the truth hours before the end of an election. It’s typical Hugin. He’s a fraud,” said Menendez.

Hugin rallied his own phone bank at his Mountainside headquarters. He’s kept Trump at arm’s length during the campaign. Polls show the president is deeply unpopular in New Jersey. Hugin, who was a Trump delegate and contributed $200,000 to Trump’s campaign effort, insists he’s independent, not a Trump rubber stamp.

“It’s total bogus, nonsense. You and I know that’s ridiculous. First in my family to go college. The only person in my college class to go in the Marine Corps. I’ve done things as a leader. I’m not a follower,” Hugin said.

Recent polls show Hugin trailing Menendez by double-digits. For both sides, it’s all about voter turnout, which, at least anecdotally, looks to be heavy for a midterm election. Voters have complained about long lines, but Menendez is banking on the Democratic party machine to crank out votes in Hudson and Essex Counties.

“I think we’re going to get a break in the weather in the most critical hours of the evening, so that should drive more people out to vote,” Menendez said.

Polls show Menendez is not popular with voters, and Democratic officials worry suburbanites motivated to vote in hotly-contested down-ballot congressional contests could just skip the race at the top of the ticket. The national Senate Majority political action committee has pumped $7.6 million into anti-Bob Hugin ads. Meanwhile, Hugin says his staff’s gotten calls from voters confused by new rules about mail-in ballots.

“This vote by mail law that was passed by the governor just a few months ago, I think, has really caused incredible confusion. Why they would do that to make it harder for people to vote and get provisional ballots? Our commitment is we want everybody to vote,” Hugin said.

Polls close at 8 p.m., but results could take days to come in if this is a close race. That’s because mail-in ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. can be counted as long as they arrive by Thursday.