U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez looks to have begun fundraising in earnest for his 2012 reelection bid, reportedly pulling in $1,553,987 in the first quarter.
The haul gives the Democratic incumbent more than $4.2 million on hand including $3.8 million in his campaign committee account and another $390,000 in his New Millennium PAC.
No Republican challenger has yet emerged in the race, through several prominent names have been mentioned, including state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who challenged Menendez in 2006. In that race, Kean Jr. raised a total of $6.6 million in the losing effort. Menendez raised $12 million in defeating Kean.
Other names that have surfaced are state Sens. Joe Kyrillos and Michael Doherty, as well as millionaire bio-tech executive John Crowley.
A recent Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind poll showed Menendex “confortably ahead” of six potential Republican challengers including Kean, Kyrillos, Doherty, Crowley, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, and state Sen. Jen Beck. Kean and Doherty fared the best in the February poll, trailing Menendez by 10 points, while Guadagno lagged the senator from Hudson County by 21 points.
Menendez spent the last two years in charge of helping U.S. Senate Democrats keep their jobs as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and will likely call in his fundraising chits in the coming year.