U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin wouldn’t say on Tuesday whether he would like President Donald Trump to come to the state and campaign on his behalf.
“I think I would look at every opportunity for people to support me. I will look at that when it when it comes a-road,” Hugin. “I got a primary on June the 5th. June the 5th, I’ll hopefully be the nominee and we’ll look at all campaign opportunities. I’m going look at everything when the opportunity comes up.”
The non-answer from Hugin, who was one of the state’s Trump delegates in 2016, comes as the candidate is delivering an increasing amount of public criticisms of some Trump policies ahead of a June 5 primary that is considered to be all but won for the former biotech executive.
Brian Goldberg, Hugin’s lone remaining primary opponent, is scarcely considered a competitive candidate when pitted against Hugin, a millionaire who won all 21 of the state’s Republican county lines.
Hugin’s comments came after a Tuesday roundtable with Seaside Heights business owners where Hugin opposed $15 billion in rescission cuts that would eliminate $7 billion in funding for the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program and $107 million in Hurricane Sandy relief funds.
The cuts would further increase the state’s tax burden, which already numbers among the highest in the nation.
But Hugin insisted that the opposition to the cuts was not opposition to the president wholesale.
“I think it’s New Jersey first. I support President Trump in every way when he’s something that’s good for New Jersey, and I’ll fight anybody doing anything that’s not good for New Jersey,” Hugin said. “There’s lots of things with the president that I support, and there are many things that I don’t support that aren’t good for New Jersey.”
The attempt to distance himself from Trump could be a play to avoid being dragged down by a President whose popularity in the state leaves something to be desired.
Still, Tuesday’s event was in Ocean County – the heart of New Jersey’s Trump country.
Support for the Rescission cuts among the roundtable’s members, who had universally been impacted by Sandy, was understandably low, and the issue could prove a salient one among voters in Ocean County impacted by the storm.
Despite that, and despite other Trump policies that are have or are likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on New Jersey, Hugin said that he supported much of what the president was doing, specifically referencing the administration’s deregulation push and some aspects of the Republican tax bill passed late last year.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s campaign didn’t waste any time jumping on Hugin’s non-answer.
“This is the height of hypocrisy,” said Menendez campaign chairman Michael Soliman. “Greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin, who gave $5,400 to Trump, $250,000 to a Trump superpac, was a Trump delegate and Trump’s NJ finance chair, did everything he possibly could to put this administration in power.”
The event, which originally billed attendance from Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy and Freeholders Jerry Little and Ginny Haines, New Jersey’s Republican national committeewoman, saw sparser attendance than was expected. Campaign staffers credited the event’s 1:30 p.m. start time for the shift.
It remains to be seen whether or not Hugin will push for Trump’s support come the general, but showing resistance to a president who has been known to be vindictive to detractors could make such support fleeting. For now, though, Trump is staying out of the race.
“What’s good for New Jersey is going to be first and foremost on my mind, and there are lots of people that have good things for New Jersey. I’m going to support them very hard, whether it’s the president or anybody else,” Hugin said. “And anybody that proposes things that are not good for New Jersey, I’m going to fight them.”