Framing himself as a protector of the middle class and a product of the American dream that he says is now at risk, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez kicked off his re-election bid in Gloucester Township Monday.
Standing in front of a banner that proclaimed “fighting back for New Jersey’s middle class,” Menendez (D-NJ) said large companies—specifically oil companies and health insurance firms—too often capitalize on loopholes and lax rules to amass wealth at the expense of consumers.
“Making sure that the rules are the same for everyone is what’s made the American dream work for more than two centuries,” Menendez said before about 100 cheering supporters. “It means merit and hard work can stand next to privilege and power. Having the same rules for everyone doesn’t guarantee success, nor should it. It simply means we all have the same shot.”
New Jersey’s junior senator, who is running for a second six-year term, said Americans should be “bound together by a common purpose.”
“But when the rules are different for some, when the common good is diminished by the special interests, then the American dream is at risk.”
Menendez called his own history—the son of poor immigrants who grew up in a Union City tenement, became the first in his family to attend college and went on to become a U.S. senator—the “promise of America fulfilled.”
Gloucester Township was part two of Menendez’s re-election kick off. He held a similar event in Union City earlier Monday before speaking at the Camden County Emergency Training Center later in the afternoon.
Greeting a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, Menendez touched on a laundry list of policy items dear to him and the Democratic party: health care reform, better prescription drug coverage, the Violence Against Women Act, reigning in student loan debt and ending tax breaks for certain industries, such as oil companies.
Menendez’s drew the loudest cheers when he focused on Main Street concerns, especially jobs.
“When others were content to play politics with our economy, I supported efforts that helped create and save thousands of good New Jersey jobs … I don’t believe that we should have a cop or firefighter or teacher on the unemployment line,” he said. “We need them in the classroom, we need them on the beat.”
South Jersey senator?
New Jersey has long elected senators from the north part of the state, and Menendez is no exception. But he touted his South Jersey connections during the re-election announcement.
“I’m proud to represent all of New Jersey in the United States Senate and that’s why when I first ran, I made a promise to you that I would represent the entire state and that you would see me here often,” Menendez said. “I have kept my commitment. I have been in southern New Jersey over 300 times during the course of my time in the United States Senate.”
In highlighting his record with South Jersey interests, Menendez pointed to support for Cooper University Hospital’s expansion in Camden and Shore Medical Center’s in Mays Landing, plus helping individual residents with health insurance and Social Security problems.
‘I have your back’
Menendez still must win a primary race in June, but is the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.
Four Republicans are vying for the chance to run in the general election for New Jersey’s Senate seat: David Brown, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, Bader Qarmout and Joseph Rullo. Most polls predict a Kyrillos victory in the primary.
Menendez didn’t mention any opponents during his re-election announcement though, instead focusing on his supporters.
“I could have not come this far alone, and I did not. I have family behind me (and) a community behind me and, because of that, limitless possibilities ahead of me,” he said. “Everyone here should have that same set of possibilities. As your United States senator, I want you to know this: I have your back.”