Chris Christie Rules Out Running for Sen. Menendez's Seat in New Jersey

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie confirmed on Sept. 24 that he's not seeking to run for the seat of incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Chris Christie Rules Out Running for Sen. Menendez's Seat in New Jersey
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at The Gathering in Atlanta, Ga., on Aug. 19, 2023. (Justin Kase/The Epoch Times)
Lorenz Duchamps
9/25/2023
Updated:
9/25/2023
0:00

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced that he's not seeking to run for the seat of incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) amid mounting calls for the lawmaker to resign after recently being indicted on bribery charges.

Mr. Christie, who's also running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, made the comments on Sept. 24 during an interview with "Meet the Press" host Kristen Welker, who asked the 61-year-old Republican whether he would challenge Mr. Menendez if he ends up losing the presidential race.

"No, I have no interest in being in the United States Senate," Mr. Christie responded.

Ms. Welker then pressed him by asking again if he would "rule it out completely."

"Yes, I have," Mr. Christie said. "I have throughout my entire career. I had a chance to appoint myself to the United States Senate ... in 2013 when Frank Lautenberg passed away and I was governor."

"If I didn't appoint myself to the United States Senate—the easiest way to get there—I sure as heck am not going to run for it," he explained.

Mr. Christie's remarks come just days after Mr. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were indicted on sweeping corruption-related offenses after the three-term senator allegedly agreed to use his political power and influence to "protect and enrich" New Jersey businessmen and the government of Egypt.
According to charging documents obtained by The Epoch Times, Mr. Menendez and his wife accepted "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in bribes. The bribes included cash, gold, and payments toward a home mortgage, officials said. Authorities seized some of the gold and cash—much of it hidden in closets, clothing, and a safe—while serving a search warrant at the Menendez home in June 2022.
The three-count indictment includes pictures of gold bars and jackets stuffed with cash, as well as an expensive Mercedes-Benz sports car prosecutors say was given to the couple as a bribe from the businessmen.

Calls for Resignation

Despite mounting calls for his resignation, Mr. Menendez said on Sept. 22 that he's "not going anywhere." However, he did step down from his leading role on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Meanwhile, Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who has also called on Mr. Menendez to resign, revealed over the weekend that he plans to challenge him for his seat.
 L: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) speaks at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Jan. 27, 2021. (Greg Nash/AFP via Getty Images) R: Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Aug. 24, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
L: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) speaks at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Jan. 27, 2021. (Greg Nash/AFP via Getty Images) R: Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Aug. 24, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
"After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said 'I am not going anywhere.' As a result, I feel compelled to run against him. Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity," Mr. Kim announced on Sept. 23 on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

A number of Democrats also called on Mr. Menendez to step down, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.),  who said the seriousness of the charges will make it difficult for him to serve the state.

"I believe the Senator deserves his day in court, with a presumption of innocence," Mr. Gottheimer said on X. "That said, given the gravity of the allegations, I believe it will be difficult for the Senator to carry out his responsibilities."

Addressing the allegations and resignation calls, Mr. Menendez said that there was an "active smear campaign" against him.

"For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave," he said in a statement.

This is the second time Mr. Menendez—a U.S. senator since 2006 who is up for reelection in 2024—has been indicted on corruption charges.

Previous corruption charges, including bribery, were brought against Mr. Menendez in 2015. According to charging documents, the senator accepted nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Dr. Salomon Melgen in exchange for taking actions that benefited the doctor, including supporting visa applications for the doctor's girlfriends.

In 2017, a jury could not reach a decision on the matter, resulting in a mistrial. Mr. Menendez was then acquitted by a judge of some of the charges. Federal prosecutors dropped the rest.

The Senate Ethics Committee found in 2018 that Mr. Menendez knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts, such as private flights and lodging at a villa in the Dominican Republic, from the doctor without obtaining proper approval. The senator also failed to disclose these gifts, which was required by Senate rules and federal law. The committee also said Mr. Menendez, while accepting the gifts, used his position as a senator "to advance Dr. Melgen's personal and business interests" in violation of the law and Senate rules.

Dr. Melgen was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Former President Donald Trump commuted Mr. Melgen's sentence.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.
Lorenz Duchamps is a news writer for NTD, The Epoch Times’ sister media, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and entertainment news.