A few scant days ahead of the election, Bob Hugin was in Somerset County getting some uncharacteristically enthusiastic backing from Rep. Leonard Lance, who is considered to be a mild-mannered man even by the standards of states that aren’t New Jersey.
“We need to make sure that on Tuesday evening, Bob Hugin is elected to the Senate,” Lance said. “Bob Hugin represents what I think is best in New Jersey.”
The rally at a Watchung golf course drew more than 100 Republicans, including party power players like Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean.
The rally’s primary focus was Hugin’s candidacy, though more local candidates, like Freeholders Mark Caliguire and Patrick Scaglione, both of whom are running for reelection, and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, got their due diligence.
While Hugin, Lance and former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who MC’d the event, made sure to highlight Hugin’s life accomplishments, with particular focus paid to his joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1976, something of a low point for public opinion for the American military in general, much of the rally centered around U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s ethics troubles.
“The Senate Ethics Committee severely admonished Sen. Menendez, a very significant punishment,” Lance said. “Ladies and gentlemen, New Jersey can do better than that. There are 12 congressional districts in this state. I think Chris Smith and I are in a competition as to which district Bob Hugin will have his greatest plurality. I want to make sure that his greatest plurality is in congressional district seven.”
Rep. Smith’s district is considered the most safely-Republican one in the state, and Hugin will need strong turnout there to secure a victory on Nov. 6.
Lance’s district is less so. Hillary Clinton won there by 1.5 points in 2016, and the district has flipped between presidential candidates of both parties in previous elections, breaking for Mitt Romney in 2012, Barack Obama in 2008 and George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004.
Still, the district will likely prove critical to both major party Senate candidates.
The attacks on Menendez’s ethics problems have defined much of this year’s Senate campaign, and Hugin has spent millions putting out ads highlighting the senator’s troubles.
After praising to Somerset’s politically active Republicans, lauding them for giving up nights and weekends to walk door to door or spending hours calling other voters, Hugin made those same attacks in person.
“This is embarrassing. Why do you think we’re so poorly treated in Washington? We’ve got a guy there who’s been involved in corruption for decades. this isn’t a one-time phenomenon. This is his character. I don’t care where you start looking back, he’s been involved in things that would embarrass all of us. We wouldn’t have the nerve to consider rerunning or looking to be renominated if we did the things that he did.”