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Pro-Israel New Jersey Rep. Menendez tops progressive challenger in primary

“We appreciate each candidate’s support for Israel’s right to self-defense and for the safe return of all hostages being held by Hamas,” said Mark Mellman, chair of the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and his wife Nadine Menendez dine at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Washington with Egyptian officials in a photograph taken by an FBI investigator. Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and his wife Nadine Menendez dine at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Washington with Egyptian officials in a photograph taken by an FBI investigator. Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The pro-Israel Menendez political family of New Jersey had mixed fortunes on Tuesday, as Rep. Bob Menendez Jr. (D-N.J.) beat back a progressive challenger in New Jersey’s Democratic primary while his father, Sen. Bob Menendez Sr., saw the Democratic nomination for his Senate seat go to Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.).

AIPAC has backed both the father and son for their pro-Israel positions. The elder Menendez filed on Monday to run as an independent to keep his Senate seat.

Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, which supports pro-Israel Democrats, congratulated Rep. Menendez and other pro-Israel Democrats for their victories.

“We appreciate each candidate’s support for Israel’s right to self-defense and for the safe return of all hostages being held by Hamas,” stated Mark Mellman, DMFI PAC chairman. “We look forward to supporting their campaigns in November.”

The group did not congratulate Kim, who has issued statements condemning the “famine-like conditions” in Gaza and calling for a “bilateral ceasefire to end the violence, release hostages and surge humanitarian assistance.”

The elder Menendez, who has long been one of Israel’s staunchest Democratic supporters in the Senate, is embroiled in a legal battle over allegations of criminal corruption. The U.S. Justice Department indicted him and his wife Nadine on federal bribery charges in September, alleging that they had received gold bars, cash and other illicit gifts in exchange for supporting the governments of Egypt and Qatar. 

The senator’s trial entered its fourth week on Monday and remains ongoing.

The younger Mendendez is not accused of any wrongdoing, but the family scandal opened the door for a challenge from Ravinder Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken.

A Sikh, Bhalla garnered support from a group called Muslims of New Jersey, which claimed that he supports a ceasefire in Gaza, Jewish Insider reported. Bhalla clarified that he supports Israel’s right to self-defense, per the report.

The younger Menendez ultimately defeated Bhalla handily in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, 52.5% to 37%, with local businessman Kyle Jasey taking 10.5% of the vote.

Another pro-Israel stalwart in the House, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), won his primary Tuesday uncontested.

The general elections will be held on Nov. 5.

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