When ambitions and differences of opinion are seen in the context of loyalty tests, something is terribly wrong.
Congratulations, Sen. Menendez, on your re-election.
Since the June Democratic primary, New Jersey voters have made it abundantly clear that they are deeply troubled by your federal corruption indictment and trial, making what should have been a slam-dunk for the blue team a nail-biter.
We hope your reaction to winning is the polar opposite of your reaction to your mistrial, which smacked of arrogance. It’s time for some humble pie.
Going back to Washington and fighting for New Jerseyans and Americans on issues that matter most – equal rights, healthcare, immigration, the environment – is a given. We know it’s what you do; it’s why this newspaper endorsed your candidacy.
And, we know you will be a loud voice opposing President Trump and his nationalist agenda, perhaps the major reason you were re-elected.
But, you must do more. You must work hard to regain our trust – for your own sake and for the sake of those who will follow in your footsteps.
To some, it’s an impossible task; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
First, you need to meet us more where we are.
When you meet constituents in the state, you tend to go to safe spots. We see you shaking hands on the home field in Union City, for example, and at events like parades, where you can wave and move along, or news conferences, where you can speak from a podium and head off to the next stop on your itinerary.
Your July “roundtable discussion with New Jersey women about what’s at stake for them and their families in this upcoming election” – your campaign’s words — was telling. Held in a North Bergen diner, it featured 16 women who seemed hand-picked. They were already supporters, our reporter found, and softballs were served up along with the coffee, juice and breakfast treats.
A true roundtable discussion would have included a diversity of voices and concerns – and, we would hope, more than a few curveballs.
You need to get out more. When was the last time you took the light rail? Have you ever held a real town hall?
Second, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, steer clear of anything and everything to do – even tangentially — with Dr. Salomon Melgen, your wealthy Floridian friend now in prison for Medicare fraud whose gifts were the reason for your indictment and trial.
You recently told us about legislation you’re working on to change regulations on multidosing, one of the problems the federal government had with Melgen. No matter the merits of the bill, you shouldn’t be involved or it could be viewed as a way to defend your friend’s lost honor. You’ve got to let go.
Third, acknowledge the genuine rage against the machine and the fact that when it comes to Hudson County politics, you’re just too close. Surely, there will always be jockeying for position and alliances to be formed and dissolved. Without the chess moves, there’d be no fun in the game.
But when ambitions and differences of opinion are seen in the context of loyalty tests, something is terribly wrong.
The next generation of government leaders in Hudson County needs to be allowed to flourish or fail on their merits.
This will no doubt be your last term in public service. You said last night that you will “earn back” the trust of anyone who’s lost faith in you. We hope you will. We’d like to see you go out with pride.
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