Against the backdrop of the unfolding corruption trial of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and its impact on the gubernatorial election, the Kim Guadagno Campaign this afternoon locked horns with Menendez’s former state director.
Republican Guadagno has repeatedly jabbed at her statewide Democratic rival Phil Murphy, taking him to task for stating that he “hasn’t really thought” about whether or not Menendez should resign if found guilty in a Newark courtroom.
This week, she upped the ante, forcing Menendez ally Mike Soliman to respond.
“What’s interesting about Phil Murphy’s insistence on siding with his man, Bob Menendez, is that Senator Menendez’s criminal defense strategy isn’t to deny taking lavish gifts,” Guadagno Campaign Manager Ricky Diaz said to reporters. “In fact, Senator Menendez admits to taking lavish gifts, travel and outsized campaign contributions from [Florida eye doctor] Salomon Melgen, and then doing favors for Melgen like helping him with Medicare reimbursements. Instead, his defense is trying to argue that this kind of quid pro quo doesn’t constitute corruption or bribery because the gifts and trips were given from a ‘friend.’
“Since he refused to call on Senator Menendez to resign, that begs the question: does Phil Murphy think it is appropriate for public officials to accept such lavish gifts and trips? If not, why not call on Bob Menendez to resign if convicted?” Diaz added.
Soliman, a partner at Mercury, responded with an emailed statement.
“Senator Menendez is presumed innocent and believes that when all of the facts are known, he will be vindicated,” he said. “Lt. Governor Guadagno, herself a former prosecutor, knows this, and for her to try to make this a political issue is shameful. Instead of speculating about something that won’t happen, she should focus on explaining how she will be able to improve the lives of New Jerseyans when she has failed to for the past 7 years.”