Menendez or Hugin: which is the better choice for LGBT NJ?

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U.S. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey
The deadline to  vote is November 6

The much-anticipated mid-term elections are fast approaching and New Jersey has a Senate seat up for grabs, occupied by long time Democrat incumbent Bob Menendez. His challenger, Bob Hugin, has been running a seemingly unending parade of attack ads, questioning Menendez’s integrity and always ending with the tag line, “send in a Marine.” Both natives of Union City, Menendez went into public service while Hugin did go into the Marines, something he emphasizes to appeal to voters.

New Jersey voter registration information is available at: rockthevote.org/voting-information/new-jersey/
New Jersey voter registration information is available at: rockthevote.org/voting-information/new-jersey/

Menendez has occupied his seat since 2006, winning every six years with at least 71% of the vote. Through his terms in the Senate, his votes have largely been in favor of LGBT rights and equality for women and immigrants. He went from supporting the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act to supporting same-sex marriage in 2012. He voted ‘no’ on a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and a ban on gay adoptions in Washington D.C., he also voted to prohibit sexual-identity discrimination in schools. He sponsored a Constitutional Amendment for women’s equal rights and has been endorsed as “preferred” by the Feminist Majority in regards to his stance on women’s rights. The Human Rights Campaign has also given him an 88% rating. On the issue of immigration, another hot button issue with Donald Trump’s zero tolerance stance, Menendez has voted to continue federal funds for so-called ‘sanctuary cities’, something strongly supported by Governor Phil Murphy.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez spoke at the GSE town meeting two weeks after Tyler Clementi committed suicide. Photo by Toby Grace.
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez spoke at the GSE town meeting two weeks after Tyler Clementi committed suicide. Photo by Toby Grace.

What may hurt Menendez’s chances at re-election is his 2015 indictment that he used his office to help a longtime friend and supporter advance his business ambitions. The friend, Florida eye doctor, Solomon Melgen, allegedly showered Menendez with luxurious gifts, vacations, and over $750,000 in campaign donations. In turn, Menendez stepped into two disputes on Melgen’s behalf, one with federal regulators over Medicare charges, and one involving a bid by Melgen to secure a port-security contract in the Dominican Republic. Though Menendez’s trial ended in a hung jury last fall, there still may be charges brought by the Senate Ethics Committee that could find him guilty.

The alleged indiscretions have been featured prominently in Hugin’s campaign ads. Ethical issues are nothing new for Hugin, CEO of drug maker Celgene. Under his leadership, Celgene paid out $280 million to settle charges brought by the Justice Department that it pushed two cancer drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The company also spent a staggering amount of money to lobby last year, successfully blocking congressional efforts to make it easier for competitors to obtain samples of cancer drug Revlimid for the purpose of developing a lower cost generic alternative. The FDA criticized Celgene for the move. Hugin was also a Trump supporter. He donated $5400 to the Trump campaign and $233,200 to the Republican National Committee working to get Trump elected.

Though Hugin has said he is pro-LGBT, allegations of past anti-LGBT and misogynistic behavior have surfaced, which Menendez has had no problem pointing out. While serving as president of the Tiger Inn eating club at Princeton University when he was a student, Hugin fought against allowing women into the male-only eating clubs on the campus. Ultimately, Sally Frank, who initially filed suit as an undergraduate in 1979, was victorious and Hugin reacted by calling it “politically correct fascism.”

Meanwhile, Hugin as an undergraduate was asked about gays being allowed into the clubs. His response? “They wouldn’t last long.” Since his past was brought to light by NJ.com, Hugin has claimed that time can change people, that being married and fatherhood has helped him see the error of his ways. He has said he is a friend to the LGBT community, but then again Trump has said the same, and has been anything but.

Places to find out more and to register to vote: pewresearch.org
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