2006 United States Senate election in New Jersey
Menendez: 50–60% 60–70% 70–80%
Kean: 40–50% 50–60% 60–70%
|Elections in New Jersey|
|General Assembly elections|
The 2006 United States Senate election in New Jersey was held on November 7, 2006. Bob Menendez, who had served as an interim appointee, was elected to a six-year term in office. He defeated Republican Thomas Kean Jr. in the general election.
The seat was previously held by Democrat Jon Corzine, who resigned in January 2006 after being sworn in as Governor of New Jersey and appointed Menendez, a U.S. Representative, to the vacant seat.
Filing for the primary closed on April 10. The primary election was held June 6. Menendez and Kean both survived nominal intra-party challenges.
Menendez was the first Latino elected to statewide office. As of 2023, this is the most recent U.S. Senate election in New Jersey decided by a single digit percentage margin.
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Senator Jon Corzine was elected Governor in 2005 and took office in January 2006. Upon his inauguration, he resigned from the Senate and appointed Bob Menendez, a U.S. Representative from Union City, to complete the remaining year of his term.
Upon his appointment, Menendez became the first Hispanic to hold a U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey.
- James D. Kelly, telecommunications worker and candidate for Governor in 2005
- Bob Menendez, interim U.S. Senator and former U.S. Representative from Union City
|Democratic||Bob Menendez (incumbent)||159,604||84.03%|
|Democratic||James D. Kelly||30,340||15.97%|
- John P. Ginty, associate director with Standard & Poor's
- Thomas Kean, Jr., State Senator from Westfield and son of former Governor Thomas Kean
Ginty represented the conservative wing of the New Jersey Republican Party. Kean ran as a moderate.
A showdown between Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) conservatives and a group of insurgent moderate Republican critics ignited into a shoving match between supporters, with Kean temporarily refusing to accept the BCRO endorsement of his candidacy, and refusing to run with the organization slate of nominees for the offices of County Executive, Surrogate, and Freeholder. As a result, Ginty was drafted by Bergen County conservatives to fill out the conservative slate of candidates in Bergen County for the Republican primary. Kean eventually accepted the BCRO endorsement.
Ginty's entrance into the primary complicated matters for Kean, who had to consider moving to the right to secure the Republican nomination, something that would likely hamper his chances of defeating Menendez in November. Kean's supporters argued there is virtually no chance for an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey, where 66% of the voters self-identified as pro-abortion and polls illustrate a distinct majority supported gay marriage.
On March 20, Kean arrived late to a fundraising event for his campaign, after featured guest Vice President Dick Cheney had left, which some accused of him doing deliberately to avoid the chance of photographs of the two together.
On March 27, at a news conference billed as a "major announcement," Kean called for state and federal tax cuts, asking Menendez and Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine to support them. In response, a spokesman for Menendez said the senator supports "balanced tax cuts," not just ones that benefit the wealthiest Americans while expanding national debt.
On April 1, at the Middlesex County Republican Convention, Kean won the Middlesex County Republican Organization endorsement for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate over Ginty by a vote of 79% to 21%.
On May 2, Ginty publicly called on Kean to stop soliciting the endorsement of the Sierra Club, which he termed an "environmental extremist group with a deep history of involvement in left-wing causes." Ginty announced that he favors oil exploration in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, something that Kean and Menendez both opposed.
|Republican||Thomas Kean Jr.||129,794||75.63%|
|Republican||James P. Ginty||41,828||24.37%|
Discover more about Republican primary related topics
- Daryl Mikell Brooks, candidate for New Jersey's 12th congressional district in 2004 (Poor People's Campaign)
- J.M. Carter, minister and candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 (God We Trust)
- Len Flynn, activist (Libertarian)
- Ed Forchion, activist known as "NJ Weedman" (Marijuana)
- Thomas Kean, Jr., State Senator from Westfield (Republican)
- Angela L. Lariscy, sewing machine operator and trade unionist (Socialist Workers)
- Bob Menendez, interim U.S. Senator and former U.S. Representative from Union City (Democratic)
- Gregory Pason, activist and former union official (Socialist)
- N. Leonard Smith, former Camden County Freeholder, retired teacher, and Korean War veteran (Solidarity, Defend Life)
The general election contest largely pitted Kean, running a campaign critical of Menendez's reputation for ethical ambiguity, against Menendez, who focused on national political issues, including the unpopularity of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War in New Jersey.
On June 13, Kean held a fundraiser in Ocean County featuring First Lady Laura Bush, at which both Kean and Bush noted Kean's political distance from President George W. Bush, claiming that Senator Menendez seems to confuse the two.
On June 16, at a New Jersey Association of Counties speaking event in Atlantic City, Kean and his aides beat a hasty retreat from the ballroom engagement and "stampeded" into an elevator in an abortive attempt to avoid the press, only to exit on the same floor as they had entered. Kean declined to answer questions about the scathing attacks on his integrity which his opponent had delivered minutes earlier, instead opting to repeat "a few slogans."
Kean and the Republican Party focused their campaign on Menendez's poor ethical reputation. In 2005, op-eds in The New York Times and the Star-Ledger complained of bossism by Menendez, claiming he runs Hudson County as a political machine. The Bergen Record made an issue of Menendez's campaign spending, claiming the majority of his recent spending was not for traditional campaign activities.
In late June, the Associated Press reported that Kean's campaign was planning to produce a film accusing Menendez of involvement in a New Jersey mob-connected kickback scheme "despite public records and statements disputing that claim." The AP noted that "[f]our former federal prosecutors who oversaw the case have said Menendez was never involved in any wrongdoing." The New York Times reported that the charges conflicted with historical accounts and records portraying Menendez as a crusader against the very corruption of which he stood accused. The film was never completed.
In mid-summer, Jon Corzine and the Democratic-controlled state legislature held a brief shutdown of state government, which ultimately resulted in a sales tax increase.
On August 27, two Republican state lawmakers filed an ethics complaint against Menendez, alleging he broke conflict-of-interest rules as a State Senator and U.S. Representative rented property out to a nonprofit agency that receives federal funds. Menendez helped the organization win designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center in 1998. That designation allowed the agency to receive additional federal grants. Menendez allies noted that the organization in question, the North Hudson Community Action Corp., which provides social services and health care to the poor and was founded in 1960, had received federal funding for years before Menendez was in Congress, and receives its funding based on mathematical formulas. Menendez maintains that he rented the property out below market-value because "he was supportive of its work". The total rent collected over nine years was over $300,000. Menendez questioned the timing of the complaints: "We have seen an orchestrated series of leaks, bogus ethics complaints and outright fabrications since the beginning of this campaign." Menendez maintained that he received verbal clearance from the House Ethics Committee in 1994 before entering a lease agreement with the nonprofit.
On September 8, Menendez identified Mark Davis as the House Ethics Committee lawyer whom he consulted, but Roll Call reported that Davis left the ethics committee in 1993, prompting Menendez campaign spokesman Matt Miller to offer an alternate explanation: "It was his recollection that he talked to him about this, but it must have been someone else. It was 12 years ago." In September, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie subpoenaed records from the nonprofit. Some Democrats criticized the investigation, particularly the timing of the investigation and news leaks, as politically motivated. Governor Corzine said the investigation "has the appearance of being less than objective". Kean said his campaign "absolutely" did not have any contact at any point with Christie or his office regarding the probe.
On September 15, The Star-Ledger reported that on the same day in 2005 that Kean voted to preserve a $40 million tax exemption for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, he collected $13,300 in contributions from 17 company executives and their family members. The report noted that Kean aides denied any connection between the votes and the contributions.
On September 28, The Star-Ledger reported that Menendez had fired his closest political adviser, Donald Scarinci, for seeking favors on Menendez's behalf. A 1999 recording revealed Scarinci asking a Hudson County psychiatrist, Oscar Sandoval, to hire another physician as a favor to Menendez. Scarinci also stated that he had helped Davila Colon, a former Menendez staffer, get a job with Carl Goldberg, a developer and major Menendez fundraiser. A spokesperson for the Menendez campaign stated that "Scarinci was using Menendez's name without his authorization or his knowledge."
Around that time, Democratic blog Blue Jersey alleged that a member of the Kean campaign was posing as a disillusioned Democrat when posting comments critical of Menendez on the site. Major newspapers corroborated the claim, reporting that the IP address used to make the comments was identical to one used by Kean campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker in official emails. Both Hazelbaker and Kean denied that she had been involved but did not explain the connection. The same IP address was also used to make multiple edits to Wikipedia pages linking Menendez to the accusations of corruption that were a centerpiece of Kean's campaign strategy.
In October, the Kean campaign drew scrutiny over its relationship with opposition researcher Christopher Lyon. Kean staffers denied that Lyon worked for Kean directly. "I think the selective outrage here is a little laughable," said Hazelbaker, who added that Mr. Menendez's former law partner, who was at his side when he was sworn in as a senator, had been convicted of dealing cocaine.
The Kean headquarters was vandalized the night before the general election. Vandals chained and locked the doors to the headquarters and broke off keys within the locks, attempting to hinder the Kean campaign. The Menendez campaign denied any involvement.
- Complete video of debate, June 25, 2006
- Complete video of forum, October 20, 2006
In mid-September, Menendez declined a national debate with Kean on the popular Sunday morning talk-show, Meet the Press. A Menendez spokesperson stated that he preferred to focus on local citizens and press. Menendez did agree to take place in three locally aired debates with Kean to be aired between October 7–17. Kean withdrew from the October 14 debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, insisting on a national TV debate as a condition of his participation.
Both candidates agreed to participate in a virtual debate sponsored by the nonpartisan Hall Institute of Public Policy. Beginning in July and running through Election Day in November, the institute submitted questions to the candidates and then posted their responses on its website.
The Sierra Club, which had endorsed both candidates in past races, endorsed Menendez, citing his "15-year, extremely strong record on many federal [environmental] issues — often achieving a League of Conservation Voters voting record of 100%."
The New Jersey Educational Association PAC also endorsed Menendez.
|Source||Date||Menendez (D)||Kean Jr. (R)|
|Quinnipiac||November 22, 2005||41%||39%|
|Rasmussen||December 7, 2005||38%||34%|
|Quinnipiac||December 15, 2005||44%||38%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||January 16, 2006||25%||37%|
|Rasmussen||January 25, 2006||35%||42%|
|Quinnipiac||January 25, 2006||38%||36%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||February 8, 2006||28%||33%|
|Rasmussen||February 14, 2006||39%||36%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||March 6, 2006||42%||37%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||March 10, 2006||30%||32%|
|Quinnipiac||March 20, 2006||40%||36%|
|Rasmussen||March 31, 2006||39%||41%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||April 4, 2006||40%||35%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||April 6, 2006||38%||42%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||April 14, 2006||32%||34%|
|Rasmussen||April 18, 2006||36%||43%|
|Quinnipiac||April 18–24, 2006||40%||34%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||May 12–14, 2006||35%||35%|
|Rasmussen||May 26, 2006||37%||40%|
|Quinnipiac||June 7–13, 2006||43%||36%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||June 16–18, 2006||38%||36%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||June 23, 2006||42%||38%|
|Rasmussen||June 27, 2006||46%||40%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||July 12, 2006||43%||37%|
|Monmouth University||July 17, 2006||38%||37%|
|Quinnipiac||July 17, 2006||38%||40%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||July 20, 2006||43%||40%|
|Public Opinion Strategies (R)||August 2, 2006||38%||39%|
|Rasmussen||August 4, 2006||44%||38%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||August 17, 2006||42%||40%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||August 30, 2006||39%||43%|
|Rasmussen||August 31, 2006||39%||44%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||September 14, 2006||40%||44%|
|Quinnipiac||September 20, 2006||45%||48%|
|Monmouth University||September 24, 2006||38%||44%|
|Rasmussen||September 25, 2006||40%||41%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||September 28, 2006||45%||44%|
|WNBC/Marist Poll||September 30, 2006||37%||42%|
|Mason-Dixon/MSNBC||October 2, 2006||44%||41%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||October 5, 2006||41%||46%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||October 5, 2006||46%||39%|
|USA Today/Gallup||October 6, 2006||46%||43%|
|Quinnipiac||October 12, 2006||49%||45%|
|Rasmussen||October 14, 2006||42%||39%|
|Monmouth University||October 22, 2006||48%||39%|
|Mason-Dixon/McClatchy-MSNBC||October 24, 2006||45%||42%|
|Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg||October 24, 2006||45%||41%|
|Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal (D)||October 23–25, 2006||45%||36%|
|Rasmussen||October 25, 2006||45%||45%|
|CBS News/New York Times||October 26, 2006||40%||39%|
|Rasmussen||October 30, 2006||49%||44%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||October 31, 2006||43%||42%|
|CNN/Opinion Research Corporation||October 31, 2006||51%||44%|
|Quinnipiac||October 31, 2006||49%||44%|
|Rutgers/Eagleton||November 2, 2006||46%||42%|
|Reuters/Zogby International||November 2, 2006||49%||37%|
|Fairleigh Dickinson/PublicMind||November 2, 2006||48%||38%|
|Rasmussen Archived February 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine||November 3, 2006||48%||43%|
|WNBC/Marist Poll||November 4, 2006||50%||42%|
|Monmouth University/Gannett||November 5, 2006||45%||42%|
|Mason-Dixon/MSNBC-McClatchy||November 5, 2006||48%||41%|
|USA Today/Gallup||November 5, 2006||50%||40%|
|Strategic Vision (R)||November 6, 2006||49%||42%|
|Quinnipiac||November 6, 2006||48%||43%|
|OnPoint Polling and Research||November 6, 2006||50%||41%|
After the publication of an August 4 poll showing Menendez ahead, Kean appeared to surge into the lead according to subsequent polls by varying degrees, but within the margin of error. Some attributed Kean's early strong showing in the polls to uninformed voters confusing him with his father, the popular former governor and 9/11 Commission chairman.
On the heels of an advertising blitz, Menendez reclaimed the lead in late polling. In light of to the race's volatility, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, Congressional Quarterly, and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball shifted the race from "Leans Democratic" to "Toss-Up" or "No Clear Favorite" in their early September revisions despite the state's historically strong Democratic tilt.
A September 2006 SurveyUSA poll showed Menendez's approval rating at 40% and disapproval rating at 40% with 20% undecided, resulting in a net approval of 0%. The poll also found that Governor Jon Corzine received an approval rate of only 43%, with 48% of the state disapproving.
|The Cook Political Report||Tossup||November 6, 2006|
|Sabato's Crystal Ball||Tossup||November 6, 2006|
|Rothenberg Political Report||Lean D||November 6, 2006|
|Real Clear Politics||Lean D||November 6, 2006|
|Democratic||Bob Menendez (incumbent)||1,200,843||53.37%||+3.26%|
|Republican||Thomas Kean, Jr.||997,775||44.34%||-2.76%|
|Independent||N. Leonard Smith||6,243||0.28%|
|Socialist Workers||Angela Lariscy||3,433||0.15%||+0.03|
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According to The New York Times, Kean was defeated in part because he "built a campaign around his portrayal of Mr. Menendez as a shady, self-dealing, machine-produced Hudson County boss who hangs out with criminals. When asked about his views on Social Security or the Iraq war, Mr. Kean frequently mentioned that his opponent was 'under federal criminal investigation.'" A later Times editorial stated, "The Republican candidate, Thomas Kean Jr., based his campaign almost exclusively on negative ads and attack-dog accusations against his Democratic opponent, Robert Menendez. For a while, it looked like the strategy might pay off, but in the end Senator Menendez was elected by a comfortable margin. Voters in several polls criticized Mr. Kean's strategy."
Kean likely also suffered from the unpopularity of Republican President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. Some pollsters demonstrated that concerns over the Iraq War and discontent with President Bush solidified the Democratic base in October's advertising blitz, and won over enough independents to seal off the fate of the Republican nominee. On the eve of the election, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll reported that 65% of likely voters said that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, "including nine of ten Democrats and six of ten independents." Observers also pointed out that "from the beginning, [Menendez] made much of his 2002 vote against the Iraq War Resolution, often referring to it as one of the most important votes of his career. He made it clear as well that he intended to make the race a referendum on the President."
The ethical issues raised during the campaign did convince U.S. Attorney Chris Christie to open a criminal investigation into Menendez. In 2015, Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges, which were dropped in 2018. The United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics "severely admonished" him.
Discover more about Analysis related topics
Source: "2006 United States Senate election in New Jersey", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_United_States_Senate_election_in_New_Jersey.
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2008 United States Senate election in New Jersey
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2009 New Jersey elections
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2012 United States Senate election in New Jersey
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2013 United States Senate special election in New Jersey
2018 United States Senate election in New Jersey
2021 New Jersey gubernatorial election
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