New Jersey Dems ask: What about Rob?

A Menendez is in political trouble in New Jersey. And it’s not Bob.

Rep. Rob Menendez, a first-term Democrat, is facing a stiff primary challenge from Ravi Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken. There’s no indication that Rob Menendez was part of the corruption scandal that’s led to multiple federal charges for his father, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), but Bhalla has used those legal travails as a cudgel against the younger candidate.

Which means that the alleged sins of his father could still cast a shadow over Rob Menendez’s bid to hang on to Bob’s former House seat. Some recent polling shows Rob Menendez trailing Bhalla, who has outraised him so far this cycle. And Bob Menendez’s potential independent Senate bid could also complicate his son’s plans if the two appear on the same ballot.

To hear Rob Menendez tell it, though, an old-fashioned focus on constituent services and local issues will power him through.

“Those who know me best know that since Day One, I have put every fiber of my being into doing the work for the residents of our great district,” he said in a lengthy statement. “I am grateful for the support of my colleagues at all levels who have seen me do the work. … I look forward to continuing to collaborate with all of them on this important work and I will always put people above politics.”

In the months since his father was indicted, he’s significantly increased his advertising compared to the months prior, according to an analysis of his Facebook ad analytics. On his official page, he regularly posts about office hours, constituent services and local policy issues.

Bob Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Still, the junior Menendez hasn’t shied away from swiping at Bhalla. They have frequently sparred on X, formerly known as Twitter, with Bhalla trying to link Rob Menendez to his father’s bribery indictment.

Menendez’s campaign has run ads accusing Bhalla of having ethics problems of his own; Bhalla has faced some disciplinary issues as a lawyer, including the temporary suspension of his law license in New York.

But even as Democrats sprinted away from the elder Menendez, they’ve largely stood behind the incumbent House lawmaker. The top three members of House Democratic leadership have endorsed him, with Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) taking part in a recent event for Rob Menendez.

Even Bob Menendez’s fiercest critics are inclined to give the younger Menendez a pass.

“People should be judged in terms of their own actions,” said Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), his party’s likely Senate candidate to succeed the elder Menendez. “People just need to ask themselves who they think is going to be able to best represent them and their needs, and I hope that that’s what it comes down to.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who’s embraced the role of Bob Menendez intraparty foil, said he had nothing against the embattled House member. Yet he made clear that Rob’s fate is up to the voters.

“I don’t have anything against him personally,” Fetterman said. I don’t believe that he was part of all of the depravity and all that kind of sleaze.”

Rob Menendez has the backing of most of the state’s congressional delegation, too, with his fellow Democrats praising his work in Congress so far.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said it would be “pretty sick” if voters associated the younger Menendez with his father’s woes.

“He’s a great guy … and he’s a good congressman, and I’m supporting him,” he said. “I’ve already contributed. The folks that are here support him because he’s worked very hard. He hasn’t just taken a number and taken a seat.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the timeframe in which Bhalla outraised Menendez.