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Menendez files to run for reelection as independent amid federal corruption trial

Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Monday filed to run for reelection as an independent amid his trial on federal corruption charges.

Menendez’s campaign submitted 2,465 signatures to the New Jersey Division of Elections. He was required to submit at least 800.

Menendez’s corruption trial is underway in New York. He and his wife were charged last year with taking bribes, including gold bars, from three business executives in exchange for legislative favors. He has pleaded not guilty.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Menendez told reporters outside the courtroom that he had filed for reelection as an independent candidate, noting that he had turned in “three times the number of signatures necessary.”

Menendez added that he had gathered some of the signatures himself.

The senator told reporters he was “looking forward to continuing to prove our innocence” and touted some of his accomplishments in office.

“The people of this great state deserve a leader in Washington with a proven track record of fighting tooth and nail to deliver results, and I intend to keep doing so as an independent Democrat,” Menendez said in a statement later Monday. “It displeases me to have to go this route, thanks to overzealous prosecutors, but I will do what must be done to continue to uphold my oath of office for my constituents.”

Asked Monday outside the courtroom whether he would caucus with Democrats if he won, Menendez waved a hand in the air and gave no verbal response.

Menendez previously announced he would not run for reelection as a Democrat in New Jersey’s primary, which is Tuesday. Menendez made that announcement days before the primary filing deadline in March — and hinted he could still pursue reelection as an independent.

“I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in a general election,” Menendez said at the time.

Since then, Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) has emerged as the favorite in the primary. He previously faced New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy, though she dropped out of the race in late March.

“Everyone knows Bob Menendez isn’t running for NJ families,” Kim said Monday on social media. “He’s running for himself. People are fed up with politicians putting their own personal benefit ahead of what’s right for the country.”

Menendez filed as an independent a day before the 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline to do so.

His petitions could face challenges that add uncertainty to his independent campaign in the short term. June 10 is the deadline for such objections.

While well-known, Menendez faces an uphill battle as an independent candidate in a solidly blue state. The largest percentage an independent candidate has ever received in New Jersey is less than 6 percent of the vote, according to the New Jersey Globe.

Menendez’s independent bid also could make the race more competitive between the Democratic and Republican nominees. While Kim is favored in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, four Republicans are vying in their party’s nominating contest.

Menendez, a former House member, has served in the Senate since 2006.

Salvador Rizzo contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post