With Sen. Bob Menendez dogged by a new federal investigation and falling poll numbers, a Jersey City businessman says it’s time for a change.
If all goes according to plan, Kyle Jasey, a political newcomer who lives Downtown with his wife and two young children, will face off against New Jersey’s senior senator in next year’s Democratic primary.
The 41-year-old Jasey says his audacious plan is borne of necessity. “The perception of corruption isn’t something we should live with. I just don’t think we should stand for having a senator who is back under investigation.”
Last year, it was reported that Menendez was being investigated by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. It would mark the third federal investigation into Menendez since he became senator.
According to a recent report, the new investigation is looking into whether Menendez and his wife received unreported gifts of a luxury car and an apartment in Washington in exchange for favors given to a company that certifies halal meat. Menendez’s spokesperson told the New York Times that the allegations were “totally without basis.” The company also denies the allegations.
With a humility that is unusual in an aspiring politician, Jasey admits that his resume would appear somewhat thin. He was once elected a district leader in South Orange but adds “I don’t think anyone would blame you if you said this was my first race.”
Nonetheless, Jasey feels qualified. He says he’s always had an interest politics, having studied public policy at Duke University and received an M.B.A. from Rutgers.
He worked as an assistant in the Somerset County office of the ill-fated 2009 Corzine re-election campaign. Jasey’s mother, Mila Jasey, has represented the 27th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly since 2007.
For ten years Jasey has run an asset-based lending business for real estate investors.
So what makes Jasey think he’s the best person to run against Menendez? “I’m the one who did it. If you’re asking ‘are there a million better candidates than me’ absolutely…I think someone should run against him. If someone with a bigger name, bigger fund-raising ability, more experience jumped in, I would say great.”
The repeated investigations into Menendez appear to have taken a toll. In a Monmouth University Poll last week, only 36 percent of registered New Jersey voters approved of the job Menendez is doing. Forty-five percent disapproved.
In 2015, Menendez was indicted on federal bribery charges. Prosecutors alleged that he had received flights on a private jet and luxury vacations from Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, in exchange for helping Melgen with a Medicare dispute and a port security contract in the Dominican Republic. The 2017 trial ended in a hung jury. Following several adverse rulings by the trial judge, prosecutors decided to drop the remaining charges.
In a separate 2017 case Melgen was convicted for what prosecutors termed one of the largest Medicare fraud cases in history. President Trump commuted Melgen’s 17-year sentence just before leaving office.
For Jasey, it’s all about the taint of corruption. “His voting record isn’t something I have a big problem with.”
Asked how he’ll overcome Menendez’s support within the Democratic party, Jasey responds, “If my strategy was to get the line and the support of the political machines, I wouldn’t have done this…I don’t think they’re going to abandon Menendez.”
Jasey takes heart from Menendez’s 2018 race. That year, Lisa McCormick, an unknown challenger with minimal resources, got 38 percent of the vote against Menendez in the Democratic primary.