Some of the state’s top Demcorats drew so large a crowd to State Sen. Joe Cryan’s annual pre-election brunch that some were parked in between campaign signs and on the grass of a golf club in Union Township.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker took a break from stumping for Democrats elsewhere in the country to come back to his home state and give the state’s senior U.S. senator a push ahead of the election.
“No partner has shown me the kinds of love and patriotism, the kind of dedication, the kind of honor in where he came from, the kind of commitment to the people he has sworn an oath to serve like Bob Menendez,” Booker said. “And I wanna tell you, everywhere I go in the last hours of this election, I am preaching the gospel of Bob.”
Though the two would have appeared together several times by the end of Sunday, Booker has largely steered clear of Menendez’s race for the past months, and before he returned to campaign for Menendez about two weeks ago, the two last appeared together on the trail in early August at a press conference outlining now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s environmental record.
While it’d be easy to credit Booker’s presidential ambitions for the absence, the state’s junior senator said Sunday that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was the one directing him to races in other states.
That direction could also explain his return to New Jersey, as the Senate Majority PAC, which has ties to Schumer and other Democratic leaders, has started pouring millions into Menendez’s race in an effort to bridge the wide spending gap between him and former Celgene CEO Bob Hugin, who has spent roughly $36 million of his own money on the race.
Though, that explanation might not pass muster, as Menendez’s campaign said the appearances were planned months in advance and not the result of some last-minute shuffle.
Booker’s appearance aside, most of the event’s runtime was spent boosting candidates running for county and municipal offices.
Union Mayor Suzette Cavadas’s speech was largely focused on praising her fellows in the town’s representation, with much praise going to predecessor Manuel Figueiredo, who is now a member of Union’s Township Committee, the town’s city council equivalent, in particular.
“Manny brings to the table a different perspective. He is someone who always considers all the options, all the perspectives,” Cavadas said. “And whenever he makes a decision, he also always bases the decision on what benefits our residents and their families, so we definitely need a voice of reason on our township committee, somebody who always looks at every side of the coin.”
Menendez’s own speech followed a similar vein, with the senator laying praise onto the local and county candidates, as well as his senate colleague. The remainder of the speech seemed to roll together most every speech Menendez has given on the trail this year, with only a small portion of its length focusing on attacking Hugin over his tenure as Celgene CEO.
He also joked about having to follow Booker’s performance.
“A lot of folks are sitting around here looking at what’s happening in our country and asking ‘where is God when they’re separating families at the border? How can this be happening in our country? Where is god when hate is rising in our nation.’ Some folk are asking ‘where is god when they try to take away our health insurance?’ Folk are asking the question ‘where is god?” Booker said. “The question in this democracy is not where is god. The question is where are we.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6:54 p.m. with comment from the Menendez campaign regarding the scheduling of Booker’s appearances with Menendez.