Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said he voted to re-elect U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez in 2018, both in the Democratic primary and in the general election.
The two Hudson Democrats have had a rocky relationship, all the more so over recent years. The senator believed Fulop wanted his seat in 2018, when Menendez was still fresh off his federal trial, where 92% of the jurors viewed him as innocent. The U.S. Department of Justice dropped the charges in January that year.
Fulop, now seeking his third term at the head of what may soon be New Jersey’s most populous city, was viewed as seeking support for a Senate run while the trial was ongoing in 2017, though Fulop denied that on the New Jersey Globe Power Hour Saturday.
“I have no interest. I was about to expect a new baby. I wasn’t going to Washington. My family’s more important to me. That’s just a bunch of nonsense,” he told New Jersey Globe editor David Wildstein.
The relationship between the two Democrats dates back nearly two decades. Fulop challenged Menendez, then a congressman, in 2004 but fell far short of a primary victory.
The conflict redoubled over Menendez’s belief that Fulop was cheering against him at trial with an eye towards his seat in the Senate.
“To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won’t forget you,” Menendez famously said in remarks widely seen as aimed at Fulop.
Now, the senator’s son, attorney Rob Menendez Jr., is considering challenging Fulop as Hudson’s Democratic leaders align behind the incumbent. But the mayor isn’t going in with steel bared.
“It’s not like I’ve been poking him. It’s not like I looked for the fight,” he said. “But again, if somebody is going to say something or attack me, I’ve got to respond. I think that’s the way that I got to approach it, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”