NEW YORK – New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez took time out of his busy schedule to talk to The National Herald about his re-election campaign and his years of public service. As the former chair, senior member, and now senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Menendez has shown strong support for the issues of most concern to the Greek-American community.
When asked about the campaign, he told TNH, “We’re moving in the right direction, we have a multi-millionaire who made his millions by gouging cancer patients with a drug that his company promoted and is spending it in this election mostly on negative advertising, so it’s a bit of a challenge when you have somebody who spends $40 million. As someone who has dedicated his entire adult life to public service, I don’t have that type of money to spend, so it’s a bit of a challenge, but we’re headed in the right direction. We had two polls last week, Quinnipiac had us up 11 points and CBS News on Sunday had us up 10 points, so we’re headed in the right direction now that we’re finally advertising.”
When asked about the Greek community, Sen. Menendez said, “I think if the Greek community comes out to vote it will be a big help. I have been a champion on Hellenic issues from my days in the House of Representatives where I was part of the founders of the Hellenic Caucus. I have been a champion on U.S.-Greek relations when I stopped the recognition of FYROM being called Macedonia because of issues of irrendentism and other concerns that I had. I have been a big supporter of Greece as it relates to meeting its economic challenges during one of its worst periods of time and advocating that the IMF cannot be on austerity alone that there has to be growth at the end of the day, on pushing back on Turkey’s aggression in the Aegean alongside the borders with Greece. I’ve been a huge champion for the Cypriot community and for peace and justice and reunification in Cyprus but under Cypriot-led terms. I have been an advocate of religious freedom globally as senior member of the Foreign Relations committee and as part of that I have always pressed the question of Turkey’s interference with the Ecumenical Patriarch, the return of the Patriarchate’s properties including the Seminary at Halki, and every time that we’ve had an ambassador nominee to Turkey, Greece, or the ambassador for religious freedom, I have pressed these issues individually and collectively, so I have used the fullness of the role I play as the former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, senior member, senior Democrat now, to continue to press these issues as we move forward.
On the importance of Greek-American support, he said, “I have a quarter of a century of support for the Hellenic community and engaging its leadership, and so whether it be the Church and the Archons of the Church, or whether it be the Cyprus Federation of America, or AHEPA, or you name it, I have been engaged in understanding these issues through the eyes of Greeks and Cypriots as well as obviously from an American’s perspective and when they speak up on my behalf as leaders within the community it is a verification of what I’ve done. I think it is a powerful set of voices of people who are respected in the community, have worked for the community, and at the end of the day I think that the community will take to heart what they say and so I’m hopeful that all of that generates an active participation by Greek-Americans in New Jersey to come out and vote because the leadership obviously knows the champion I’ve been, but whether the average Greek-American who cares about these issues knows what I have done is another question, so to a large degree I depend upon the leadership of the community to express the successes I’ve had on behalf of the community and let them know as verifiers of my record, and so it is important.”
Of his background as the son of Cuban immigrants, he said, “Well, if you told me growing up poor in a tenement in New Jersey, the son of political refugees, the first of my family to go to college, that I could be one of 100 United States senators in a country of 320 million people at that part of my life, I probably would have said that’s not going to happen, but it is the promise of America fulfilled, it’s a promise I fight to keep true for future generations of Americans, it’s part of what makes this country so exceptional.”
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. (Photo: TNH/ Kostas Bej, file)
About his opponent’s negative ads, Sen. Menendez mentioned a recent interview with ABC7 reporter Dave Evans, who asked “‘How do you feel about all these attacks ads and some people say they’re going to vote for you but they don’t like you as much as they used to?’ I said, ‘Well, Dave, everybody loves you but if I spend $40 million attacking you, I don’t know if they’re going to love you as much as before the $40 million,’ so I have an opponent who as I said made his money off of making a killing off cancer patients. He raised the cost of the drug over 200% at the same time that he was lowering it in Russia by 50%. He was sued by the federal government for Medicare/Medicaid fraud, for VA health system fraud for putting patients at risk because of not disclosing potentially fatal side effects and he was willing to do all of that, he settled for $280 million, over a quarter of a billion dollars, so it gives you a size of the dimensions of the type of money that he made, if I take that type of money and just go negative but don’t tell you what will I do if I’m elected as your U.S. Senator, what do I stand for, what do I believe in. Am I going to create more healthcare for New Jerseyans? As I did for a million New Jerseyans who have healthcare today who didn’t have it before I helped write the Affordable Care Act, or 3.8 million New Jerseyans who no longer can be discriminated against because they have a pre-existing condition and used to be discriminated against by insurance companies or families and children on the autism spectrum in the state that has the highest rate of autism in the nation, I passed into law, the federal law, the Autism Cares Act that deals with how do we help those children and those families fulfill their God-given potential, or in the aftermath of Sandy, when the region got the worst natural disaster in the state’s history I brought $60 billion to the region and helped New Jerseyans recover and when New Jerseyans were turned down by their government on legitimate claims, I investigated, reopened the claims, and got them more than $300 million they had been denied. So, those are some of the successes, I think at the end of the day, that long history of advocacy and success will win the day regardless of how much negative advertising.”
More information about Sen. Menedez is available online: menendez.senate.gov. Election Day in Tuesday, November 6.