The contest between the two major-party candidates for New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seat ranks among the nastiest in memory, with the contenders’ ads giving voters a choice between a man who is “greedy” and one who is “corrupt.”
Those not interested in either Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez, a two-term senator who has had a decades-long career in politics, and Republican challenger Bob Hugin, the former CEO of the Celgene pharmaceuticals company, do have other choices. Six independent candidates, three of whom have run for election in the past, are also on the November ballot.
All are very long shots and only two have raised any money — less than $50,000 combined. But this is going to be a close race, with polls over the last month putting Menendez up by as much as 10 points — CBS News earlier this month — and as little as five — Rutgers Eagleton Poll released today. Any significant support for the independents will siphon votes from the major candidates and could make a difference in who wins.
None of the independent candidates interviewed say that’s their mission. All are in it to win it.
Here’s a summary of who the candidates are and why they are running, as well as links to their campaign sites to learn more:
He is a longtime Libertarian who embraces the party’s principles that include support for civil liberties, the free market system and smaller government. “I’m not a novice in this, not a newcomer. I stand for peace, liberty and prosperity,” said Sabrin, 71, a professor of finance at Ramapo College. “I want to cut taxes, cut spending and bring the military home.”
Sabrin has run for office three times unsuccessfully: He last sought the Senate seat in 2014 and 2008 and he ran for governor in 1997, when he became the first third-party candidate to raise enough money to qualify for state matching funds and earn a spot in the debates.
This year, he said he is upset that neither he, nor other independents, can participate in tonight’s debate, to be televised by NJTV. Unlike the state law governing gubernatorial elections, there is no requirement that U.S. Senate candidates participate in any debates in New Jersey. Tonight’s is the only one scheduled, and the criteria set by NTJV open the debate to all candidates getting at least 10 percent in an independent poll. In the Monmouth University Poll released last week, Sabrin polled at 1 percent.
“This is the most frustrating campaign I’ve been in,” said Sabin, who the Federal Election Commission shows had raised $36,647 through September 30. “It’s been tough raising money. I have an all volunteer staff. Basically, we’re running on fumes at this point. It’s a matter of trying to get recognition. If I had the same coverage as Hugin and Menendez since the primary, I’d be in double digits.”
His key proposal, he said, is the creation of a universal tax credit for donations to nonprofit organizations. This would provide a “dollar for dollar” credit on one’s income tax form.
Hoffman, 62, served as the executive director of New Jersey Peace Action from 2000 through May 2018. She has long been a peace activist and an environmental advocate and also has worked for social justice causes.
Hoffman, who lives in Flanders and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Rutgers University, said she decided to run this year because of her dissatisfaction with Menendez and Hugin. She said that she “often felt frustrated with the positions of Senator Menendez — on continuing to support the wars in the Middle East and Asia, such as Syria, Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan — his support for the annual over-inflated military budget of approximately $700 billion and his support for a 30-year plan to ‘modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal’ to numbers and power greater than U.S. nuclear strength at the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War.” He also “opposed the Iran deal when it counted,” she added.
She cited several issues of importance. Atop the list in the area of foreign policy is her opposition to “the on-going Saudi-led war on Yemen, supported by U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, U.S. refueling of Saudi war planes.” She also was critical of the Israel Defense Force’s “killing of peaceful protesters in Gaza marching for the Palestinian right of return,” which has led to 200 dead since early March. Hoffman said she would like to hear the positions of both Menendez and Hugin on these issues.
In domestic policy, Hoffman generally holds liberal positions on a host of issues. These include a single-payer health care system or Medicare for all, an end to fracking and the country's reliance on fossil fuels, the abolition of the national Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; tuition-free college; a living wage that would range between $20 and $22 an hour in New Jersey; and “a shift in federal spending priorities from the military to programs that address community needs.” Additionally, she said, the Green Party advocates a change in balloting from one in which voters choose only one candidate to a ranked-choice voting system, in which voters rank as many candidates as they want from most to least popular with secondary and subsequent choices counted until a candidate receives more than half the votes cast.
Flanagan received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Wheaton College in 1992 and was a research associate in biochemistry while studying there. She worked at several pharmaceuticals companies and is founder and currently managing director of Anderson Ludgate Consulting and Communications in Princeton. This is her first run for office.
She says she is looking to be “another voice of fiscal sanity in Washington” and her primary issue in the campaign is getting Menendez out of office.
“The biggest issue is that we need to replace Bob Menendez — the most corrupt US Senator in our country’s history — with a true Republican, not a Republican in name only,” she said. “Bob Hugin has pledged in his own words and even advertises that he’s a ‘different kind of Republican’ who embraces a liberal platform. That’s called another Democrat. Our state needs true conservative leadership.”
Flanagan is the only other independent candidate to report raising any money for this election. According to the FEC, she had raised $8,529 through September 30, spent $7,967 and had $562 on hand.
“Being a leader means defining and exhibiting moral and ethical courage and setting an example for everyone,” said Kimple, 57. “Our current elected officials are not leading, we need to replace them with leaders that are not beholden to a political party, people that will not be political partisans. The priority given to political parties is detrimental to serving the public … Leadership is needed to bring the country together not divide it further.”
Kimple said he decided to run to provide leadership for New Jerseyans and the nation and if elected he would not be partisan, but would act in the best interests of the country.
“The phrase that is catching fire across the country is ‘Country Over Party,’ he said. “We need to look for leaders to elect into representative roles, leaders who will act such that priority will be given to our country over a political party.”
Kimple is married with three children and holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics and computer science from West Virginia University. This is his first time running for office. His ballot slogan is Make it Simple.
“I became discouraged, as so many have, with the two-party system,” said Schroeder, 60, in explaining his reason for running for office. “While I was raising my family, I saw the economic and social decline going on for many years, no matter which party was in office. I wanted to have a voice.”
He said that if elected, he would work to improve the economy, particularly to help the “99 percent” of Americans who are not wealthy, and would seek to strengthen social safety-net programs. And he would work to restore civility to politics, Schroeder said. “This whole division game … is the worst thing in the world we could allow to happen to this country,” he said.