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U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Menendez is huge stakeholder in 2020 elections

New Jerseyan would chair Senate Foreign Relations Committee if Democrats take control

By David Wildstein, May 11 2020 10:46 am

Bob Menendez isn’t on the ballot this year, but he’s still on the biggest stakeholders of the 2020 elections.

If Democrats can win control of the United States Senate in the fall, the senior Senator from New Jersey would become chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Right now, Republicans effectively hold a 53-47 majority, including two independents (Bernie Sanders and Angus King) who vote with the Democrats for organizational purposes.  Democrats need to pick up three seats if they win the White House and four if they do not.

Among the obstacles for a Senate majority: Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones will have a hard time winning re-election in a red state. The Cook Political Report and Stuart Rothenberg’s Inside Elections, say the seat in Lean Republican, while Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Real Clear Politics have the race at Likely Republican.

If one loses, Menendez will need Democrats to pickup five seats for absolute control.

The races to watch are in: Arizona, where astronaut and West Orange native Mark Kelly faces GOP incumbent Martha McSally; Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina.  Republicans think they can pick off a seat in Michigan.

Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona), led McSally by 6 points in a March 2020 Monmouth University poll and the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average puts him ahead by 8.

Two former Democratic presidential candidates are seeking U.S. Senate seats: Gov. John Hickenlooper against incumbent Cory Gardner in Colorado; and Gov. Steve Bullock against incumbent Steve Daines in Montana.

In Maine, incumbent Susan Collins is in a tight race with Democrat Sara Gideon, the speaker of the state House of Representatives.  Gideon has led in recent polls and has a RCP average lead of 2.5%.

North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis is in a dead heat against Democrat Cal Cunningham, a former state senator.  Cunningham’s RCP lead is 0.3%.

Menendez chaired the Foreign Relations Committee for two years before Republicans won control of the Senate in 2015.  He is now the ranking Minority Member.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker would be in line for subcommittee chairmanships on the Foreign Relations and Environment and Public Works Committee if Democrats take the Senate.

Before Menendez, the last New Jerseyan to chair a full Senate committee was Harrison Williams, who led the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee for a decade before Republicans won control of the Senate in 1980.

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