U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin said he didn’t discussed New Jersey’s budget with former Gov. Chris Christie at a lunch meeting the two had in Morristown on Wednesday.
“I have not discussed the budget with Governor Christie,” Hugin said at a press conference with state Republican leaders on Thursday. “I did have lunch with the governor. We did not speak about the budget at any time. That was a private conversation, but I assure you we did not talk about the budget. Maybe we should have, but we didn’t.”
That statement comes as Republican congressional candidates around the state are attempting to tie their Democratic opponents to the budget squabble between Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney that threatens to cause a government shutdown.
Yesterday, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean and State Republican chair Doug Steinhardt attempted to link Mikie Sherrill, the Democratic nominee in the 11th congressional district, to the squabble.
Joined by Hugin, they repeated those attacks today but aimed them at U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.
“Where is the voice of a senior senator on people’s ability to live in this state?” Bramnick said. “That’s why I’m here. It is time for people to realize that this Democratic party, led by Murphy and Menendez, is out of touch with the taxpayer and that’s why I’m here to support Bob Hugin, as well as my colleagues in the State Senate.”
The goal is to link Menendez to tax hikes Murphy wants to fund his proposals. It’s not clear those tax hikes will even go through, as Murphy is feuding and negotiating with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who oppose his proposal to raise taxes on sales and millionaires.
As a U.S. Senator, Menendez doesn’t have any formal input on the state’s budget process, and while he could make calls privately or publicly, it’s not clear how much of an effect they would have on the state’s entrenched leaders.
Democratic leaders in the legislature have their own budget awaiting a vote today before both chambers of the legislature, but they’ve entered into a renewed set of negotiations with the governor this morning and afternoon that might see that budget changed.