Posted September 09, 2017 at 08:00 AM | Updated September 09, 2017 at 08:10 AM
By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is on trial on charges that he intervened with federal regulators on behalf of a friend and campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for trips and political contributions.
If he is found guilty, Menendez, D-N.J., will face pressure to resign. Or he could face expulsion, as did a former occupant of his seat, U.S. Sen. Harrison Williams, D-N.J, did in 1982.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. (Laura Herzog | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Should Menendez leave office before his term expires in January 2019, then the next New Jersey governor likely will have the chance to fill the vacancy. If it’s Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, then a Republican will get the seat.
If Menendez is cleared of all charges and decides not to seek re-election, the seat would become more attractive to a GOP candidate who would not be facing a well-known Democratic incumbent with millions of dollars already put away for a re-election campaign.
Even Menendez is acquitted of the charges and runs for another term, his legal problems may not be over. He could be campaigning while being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee. That, too, could entice a top-tier Republican challenger into the race.
Here are seven potential Republicans who could wind up representing New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.
New Jersey state government shutdown
Gov. Chris Christie holds a press conference in Trenton during the state government shutdown in July. (Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
1. Chris Christie
When he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, Gov. Chris Christie had little good to stay about the U.S. senators he was running against.
“By definition, they do nothing,” Christie said at an Iowa town hall meeting in December 2015. “They go to Washington and they vote. They’re one of 100. Lots of good men and women there but they’re not responsible for anything.”
Still, Christie leaves the governorship in January, and a Senate seat would keep him on the national stage and give him a platform in case he wants to seek the presidency sometime in the future.