The newest issue in the already heated race for United States Senate is Bob Hugin’s record on women and gays after news broke last week that as a Princeton University student – and alumni – he was part of a private eating club that fought to block women from becoming members.
So far, all voters really know about Hugin is what he’s said about himself and his opponent on television, where he’s spent about $1 million a week in a self-funded campaign to oust two-term U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. Menendez has not spent money attacking Hugin.
The former Celgene chairman went public with his role as president of Princeton’s Tiger Club last week, likely to get out in front of the issue before others attacked him for it.
“Everyone evolves over time. I view many things differently today than I did 25 years ago,” said Hugin. “Personally, I wish I had taken a leadership role in making it happen sooner.”
Hugin also made comments that can be viewed as derogatory toward the LGBTQ community.
The challenge for Hugin will be to convince voters that his positions were ones he took while a college student. His support of litigation to keep the club all-male into the 1990s, after Hugin was already married, the father of a daughter, and successful in the corporate world, will make that task a little more difficult.
Democrats are already seizing the issue.
“This is the real Bob Hugin: anti-women, and anti-gay,” said Michael Soliman, Menendez’s campaign chairman. “Bob Hugin was in a position to show real leadership on advancing the causes of women and the LGBTQ community and failed, instead perpetuating a culture of discrimination and hate. Bob Hugin can’t erase his past. He is a disgrace and unfit to represent New Jersey and all its vibrant diversity.”
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) was quick to link Hugin to President Donald Trump, and said the Tiger Club issue “should be disqualifying as it relates to his candidacy, and perhaps in a different time it would have been.”
“In 2018, when civil discourse has nearly evaporated and the floodgates have opened to all manner of hateful rhetoric and deed, Bob Hugin might find himself captain of the Trump policy team in the Senate if he is elected,” said Watson Coleman, the first Black woman to represent New Jersey in Congress. “Hugin’s attempt to explain away his actions with the excuse of time are particularly offensive when you realize he was a married adult in his late 30’s when he was fighting battles decent minded people thought had long ago been won.”
Watson Coleman says that voters “must fight against hatred and discrimination and push forward towards better days and we cannot allow Bob Hugin to secure himself a seat at Donald Trump’s table with a win in November.”
“We have spent every day since January 20, 2017 fighting back against Trump and his racist, misogynistic, hateful agenda and the last thing we need is for this president to gain an ally in the United States Senate like Bob Hugin,” said Watson Coleman. “We must fight against hatred and discrimination and push forward towards better days and we cannot allow Bob Hugin to secure himself a seat at Donald Trump’s table with a win in November.”
Steven Goldstein, the founder of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest gay rights advocacy group, slammed Hugin for his behavior.
“To call extending basic protections to gay students ‘controversial’ and to say that someone who is gay wouldn’t be welcome in your exclusive club, just goes to show you the kind of small-minded, loathsome man Bob Hugin is,” said Goldstein. “This goes to the heart of his character. What kind of man watches as his fellow classmates are attacked, ridiculed and harassed, and then stands up for the attackers? What kind of man perpetuates stereotypes of hate and intolerance just to protect his good ol’ boys club?
Goldstein said that Hugin “is nothing but a bully and a thug.”
“He can try to slither out of it, but there is no justification for his actions. And his continued, unwavering support for Donald Trump and other anti-LGBTQ candidates and causes only prove he’s the same man he was when he first showed his true colors at Princeton,” Goldstein said.
Soliman said that Hugin’s attempt to apologize doesn’t jive with his decision to help finance Trump’s presidential campaign and to help other anti-women, anti-gay candidates.
“Hugin has given hundreds of thousands to candidates who have fought to roll back women’s rights, he supports extreme Supreme Court justices who would reverse Roe v. Wade, and he was a delegate for a presidential candidate who bragged about sexually assaulting women,” said Soliman.