CAMDEN – With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat now open, nominations to the court have become something of a campaign issue for New Jersey’s two U.S. Senate candidates.
For one, Sen. Bob Menendez said at a press conference in Camden on Monday that Bob Hugin should say how he’d vote on a nominee when President Donald Trump eventually announces one.
“One of the most important decisions a member of the U.S. Senate, and only members of the U.S. Senate, make is advise and consent on who gets a lifetimes appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Menendez said, adding later “I think he should clearly define himself.”
Unsurprisingly, the two candidates’ views of an ideal nominee diverge significantly, a point Menendez repeatedly tried to drive home by citing his opposition to Justice Neil Gorsuch and Hugin’s support of Trump’s first top court nominee.
Trump is expected to announce Kennedy’s replacement this evening , but the potential nominees seem to fall close in ideology to Gorsuch and others lauded by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society.
And while Hugin came out as pro-choice shortly after last month’s primary, he’s indicated that the issue wasn’t a deal breaker when it comes to supreme court nominations.
“Bob Hugin has always supported women being in control of their reproductive rights,” said Hugin communications director Megan Piwowar. “Generally speaking, Bob Hugin would be supportive of Supreme Court nominees who strictly interpret the Constitution, uphold and enforce the law, and not legislate from the bench.”
Trump’s nomination could become something of a headache for Hugin if the president nominates a Justice that most New Jersey residents oppose.
Such a nomination could force him to defect from the president’s camp and alienate the state’s Trump voters or risk alienating moderate voters by standing by the Trump’s nominee.
Last month, Marie Tasy, the executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said that Hugin’s pro-choice position will force her members to either stay home or vote for an independent candidate.
Hugin declined to say if he would support Trump’s nomination of Richard Pompeo as U.S. Secretary of State. Menendez voted against Pompeo’s confirmation.