New Jersey Republicans gave Bob Hugin a landslide victory in the U.S. Senate primary, but two-term incumbent Bob Menendez won the Democratic primary with an unimpressive 62% of the vote against an unknown candidate with no money or organizational support.
Hugin, the retired CEO of pharmaceutical giant Celgene, defeated Brian Goldberg by a 75%-25% margin, carrying all 21 New Jersey counties in his first bid for public office. The only place that was close was Sussex, where Hugin won 53% of the vote.
The bigger story of the night was Menendez, whose win was just slightly higher than Frank Lautenberg in 2008 in a competitive primary against nine-term Rep. Rob Andrews. The results show that Menendez has not yet recovered from his federal corruption trial last year and has some work to do to shore up his Democratic base before November.
In his political base, Hudson County, Menendez did well — 77%. The same in Essex County, where he finished with 73%. Bergen gave him a 71% win and Passaic was at 68%.
But as he moved west and south, Menendez’s was less than stellar. He got 65% in Union, and 60% in Middlesex and Mercer. Monmouth as at 56% and Ocean at 57%. Morris County was 56%.
Menendez pulled 60% in Burlington and Atlantic, 56% in Camden, and 55% in Cumberland. In Gloucester, he won by just 18 votes. The real shocker was that McCormick carried six counties: Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Somerset, Salem and Cape May.
In a way, Lisa McCormick was Menendez’s worst nightmare. Because she had no name identification and no money, she became merely just a name where Democrats could go to express some frustration with their Senator; it’s the first-time voters had the chance to speak since allegations against Menendez began to find their way into public view six years ago.
Had Menendez’s opponent been more substantive or better financed, he might have mounted a more aggressive campaign among Democratic primary voters. It appears that the Senator’s calculation was to take a hit in the primary to save his financial resources for the general election.
Menendez needed to decide if he wanted to spend money defining McCormick or Hugin. If Menendez had told primary voters more about his unknown opponent, Democrats may have been less likely to cast their ballots for her.
Democrats says that Hugin spent millions on TV ads attacking Menendez and that nearly twice as many Democrats voted in the primary than Republicans. In an email last night, the Menendez campaign said that they’ll use the general election to link Hugin to President Donald Trump and tell voters more about the big pharma.