UNION CITY – The allies of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) packed the gym at Union City High School to supply the ripping applause line for the incumbent Democrat’s formal re-election kickoff this morning in this, the senator’s original humble north Hudson homestead.
“When people try to take advantage, you have to fight back, and that’s why every day in the United States Senate, I fight back for New Jersey’s middle class,” said Menendez to applause. “I fight back so every woman who works outside of her home gets paid the same as the man who is doing the same job she is. I fight back for the child with autism and the senior citizen who needs her prescription drugs.”
He sprinkled in the names of people he said he’s helped and fought for through the years.
“This campaign is not about bringing the powerful down, it’s about raising the middle class up,” said the senator.
Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack hosted the event.
The front-row dignitaries included U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, Assemblyman (and state Party Chairman) John Wisniewski, Assemblyman Tom Giblin, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, Assemblyman Sean Connor, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer,Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr., Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy and Downtown Councilman Steve Fulop.
Also present: Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac and Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz.
“Here, dad learned to be scrappy,” said Alicia Menendez, the senator’s daughter, who along with her brother Rob tried at the podium and in projected adverts to soften Menendez’s tough guy image and give a twist of the hipster to the notoriously serious former Union City mayor and chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
There was a shot of Menendez bowling. He later poked fun at himself for being introverted and shy in high school.
On the introduction of his son and in a sign that he intends to wrench away some of the statewide symbolism embraced by his nemesis, Gov. Chris Christie, Menendez entered to the strains of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” a pop fave of Christie’s.
“Home isn’t simply the place you live in, it’s the experiences that shape you,” said Menendez, son of an immigrant seamstress mother and itinerant carpenter father. “Many of you may move away from here but this will always be your foundation.”
Menendez is scheduled to head to Camden later today for a South Jersey version of his campaign kickoff.
The incumbent expects to face state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) in the general election.
“The voters of New Jersey know the truth about Sen. Menendez’s record,” said Kyrillos in a statement. “Since Mr. Menendez has been in office, our national debt has almost doubled and our national deficit has nearly quadrupled. Our unemployment rate continues to hover above 8 percent—that’s 20 million unemployed or underemployed people across the country. New Jerseyans see what Senator Menendez is doing is not working- and we need a change. I have worked with Governor Christie to turn around a state that was on the brink of bankruptcy. We’ve balanced our budgets, created jobs, and strengthened the economy without raising taxes. We need reforms like that in Washington, not more of the same from Senator Bob Menendez.”