Small town mayor files to challenge Menendez in 2024 Democratic primary

Joe Signorello III, just elected to his second four-year term as mayor of the small Union County town of Roselle Park, plans to run in the Democratic primary for Senate in 2024 against powerful incumbent Bob Menendez.

Signorello filed a Statement of Organization with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday evening.

The 69-year-old Menendez, New Jersey’s senior senator and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has held the office since 2006 and intends to seek reelection. Menendez remains one of the most powerful people in New Jersey politics — enough so that his son virtually walked into his old U.S. House seat in November — though Democrats in New Jersey were in the fall wary of news about a federal investigation of the senator.

Signorello, 35, has developed a relatively high profile for a mayor of a town of just 14,000, in part thanks to his irreverent tweets and his town’s fight against a resident who displayed profane anti-Joe Biden signs in public view on her property. The ACLU represented the resident, who was charged with violating the town’s obscenity law and Roselle Park ultimately dropped its case against her.

“At the end of the day you can’t legislate decency,” Signorello said on CNN shortly before the town dismissed its case.

Signorello declined to comment on his Senate run.

According to Signorello’s bio on Roselle Park’s website, he “has championed smart development, shared services, and critical infrastructure investment during his tenure.” Signorello’s online bio touts his redevelopment of fallow land, affordable housing initiatives, road resurfacing and expansion of recreation programs.

This would not be Signorello’s first shot at higher office. In 2021, he challenged state Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Union) in the general election and lost by about 7 points.

Though Signorello, who also works in the financial sector, starts off as a long shot, the prospect of a serious challenge to Menendez can’t be entirely dismissed, depending on how the current investigation shakes out.

Menendez’s camp said he is focused on his job.

“Senator Menendez never takes any election for granted,” his adviser Michael Soliman said in a statement. “Right now, the senator remains focused on fighting for the middle class, which has never mattered more than it does at this moment. His unwavering commitment to serving the people of New Jersey remains his top priority.”

Signorello is the second Democrat, but the first who holds an elected office, to file paperwork to primary Menendez. In November, drug and alcohol counselor Christina A. Khalil, a political neophyte, filed with the FEC to seek the Democratic Senate nomination.

In 2017, Menendez’s popularity took a hit after he survived a lengthy federal corruption trial that resulted in a deadlocked jury largely in favor of acquitting him. The following year, Lisa McCormick, a Democrat with few resources and little name recognition, managed to get almost 38 percent of the vote against him in what was largely interpreted as a protest vote. Nonetheless, Menendez managed to comfortably win the general election against Republican Bob Hugin by about 11 points in a Democratic wave election.

It’s unclear whether the news about the current investigation involving the senator, first reported in October, will affect the race. The investigation reportedly involves how a New Jersey company got an exclusive contract to export Halal meat to Egypt, but details have been scarce and little has been reported on the investigation’s process since then.

Should the investigation take a serious turn, some in New Jersey political circles speculate that higher-profile Democrats will seek his seat. That would likely include many of the Democratic names that have surfaced as potential gubernatorial candidates in 2025.

Joe Signorello III has developed a relatively high profile for a mayor of a town of just 14,000.  

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