Home>Congress>Booker, Menendez relationship defies modern NJ history

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, left, and Cory Booker at the Mt. Zion AME Church in New Brunswick on September 10, 2018 (Photo: New Jersey Globe.)

Booker, Menendez relationship defies modern NJ history

Rifts between New Jersey’s U.S. Senators are legendary

By David Wildstein, February 01 2019 1:26 pm

The bromance between New Jersey’s two United States Senators is sugary and unusual in a state where Senators classically despise each other – often in a very public way.

Bob Menendez and Cory Booker spent most of 2018 joined at the hip in what insiders say is a genuine friendship.  Booker played an integral role in Menendez’s re-election campaign, and the senior senator wasted not time this morning making it clear that he intends to do whatever he can to help Booker win the Democratic presidential nomination.

They have gotten along well since Booker arrived in Washington in late 2013, and the relationship expanded exponentially during Menendez’s legal battles.  Booker accompanied Menendez in court and testified on his behalf, cementing a permanent bond between the two.

That’s not how it usually works in New Jersey.

Menendez and Frank Lautenberg didn’t get along. They bickered over some federal appointments – Lautenberg thought he should get them all and Menendez believed he was entitled to a crumb or too.

The feud between Lautenberg and Bob Torricelli was legendary.  The classic story is the time Torricelli lost it at a Senate Democratic caucus meeting and told Lautenberg, “I’m going to cut your balls off.”  That was the public statement – you can be sure what was said in private was much worse.

Lautenberg and Bill Bradley didn’t particularly like each other – Lautenberg was jealous of Bradley’s “luster” – his word, not mine.

Bradley got along with Harrison Williams until he didn’t: Williams, who had remained in the U.S. Senate despite his conviction in the Abscam scandal, resigned the day after Bradley announced that he would vote to expel him.

The last time the two U.S. Senators from New Jersey got along – not including caretakers Nicholas Brady and Jeff Chiesa — was in forty years ago.

Williams, a Democrat, and Clifford Case, a Republican, served together for twenty years.  They forged what was considered a decent working relationship, acknowledging that federal patronage went through the Senator whose party won the White House.  They weren’t too dissimilar ideologically, and neither attacked the other – even during political campaigns.

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