Menendez Circles up with Baraka for Prayers in Newark

NEWARK – About 50 pastors, imams and other clergy formed a circle around Bob Menendez Monday morning and prayed that the Almighty will guide him to reelection victory on Nov. 6.

Menendez, who last year spent considerable time in a Newark courtroom fighting federal corruption charges, said he was “humbled” by the overwhelming adulation he received at the Metropolitan Baptist Church on Springfield Avenue. He attributed the support to people who really “know who I am.”

In a nearly hour-long event that combined everyday politics with the passion of a Sunday morning church service, the senator was lauded as a man who has stood up for health care, civil rights and America’s traditional support for new immigrants.

To the assembled crowd, there was no debate over the importance of next month’s election.

“This (election) is a defining moment in the United States,” said David Jefferson, the pastor of Metropolitan Baptist.

Nor was there any mystery where people stood.

The Rev. Kenneth Clayton, who pastors a church in Paterson, called Menendez “our warrior” and said that he needs another term in the Senate to “paralyze the hands of Donald J. Trump.”

There really is no debate that Menendez will get the largest share of the vote from people of color, but the issue has to do with turnout. Midterm elections seldom captivate voters as much as presidential elections do. Democrats, who have been riding an apparent wave of anti-Trump enthusiasm for the last year, are counting on their base to vote in larger numbers than usual for a midterm.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka with an apparent eye toward the election said, “We need whatever we can get. We need some votes.”

With that in mind, Jefferson urged people in Newark and elsewhere to make sure their neighbors vote. He said offering the elderly a ride to the polls is a way to make that happen.

But practical goals took a back seat to the soaring rhetoric of the day. There were about a half dozen speakers and more than one saw the election as a contemporary tussle between David and Goliath. You probably could guess which Senate candidates were which.

While Menendez is the incumbent, he has noted throughout the campaign that Republican Bob Hugin, who made a fortune in the pharmaceutical business, has spent millions running TV ads against him.

Those ads also include a message that Hugin is a “different” kind of Republican, one who supports gay rights and a path to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers, young people brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

Menendez isn’t buying it.

“The truth is he is a Trump kind of Republican,” Menendez said.

That line of attack may be fertile ground for the Democrat. Most polls have Trump’s New Jersey approval rate at less than 40 percent,. So if Menendez can get voters to see Hugin and think of Trump, that’s a battle he is going to win.

Even without a slingshot.

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