High court nomination expected to play a part in race for New Jersey’s Senate seat

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, visits the CAMcare Gateway Health Center in Camden Monday to talk about the brewing battle over President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, visits the CAMcare Gateway Health Center in Camden Monday to talk about the brewing battle over President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

With more than 2.3 million unaffiliated voters in New Jersey, the battle over the next U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee — and his or her confirmation process — may be a deciding factor for independents and a rallying call for the Republican and Democratic parties in the state’s upcoming Senate race.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce his second nominee to the high court Monday night to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

As of Monday morning, NPR reports the president’s choices had been whittled down to four potential judges: Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, and Amy Coney Barrett.

At a community health center in Camden, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said the stakes have never been higher when it comes to confirming the next justice.

Menendez, a two-term Democrat, pointed to the Affordable Care Act, women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, and the rights of immigrants as crucial issues that the court will consider.

“The president has made it very clear — both as a candidate and subsequently as president of the United States — that he will only appoint pro-life justices. He will only appoint conservative justices. He will only appoint those that will follow his views,” said Menendez. “We need someone who will follow the rule of law, not Trump’s law.”

Menendez, who won about 62 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, faced corruption and bribery charges last year in a federal case that ended in a mistral.

He said he could not support any of the nominees that Trump has floated — a clear distinction from his Republican challenger Bob Hugin. Menendez advocates delaying the confirmation process until after the midterm election.

Hugin, former CEO of the Celgene biopharmaceutical company and a Marine, supports abortion rights and marriage equality.

If he’s elected to the Senate, Hugin said he would evaluate the qualifications and record of any potential justices in the same way.

“Generally speaking, Bob would be favorably inclined toward Supreme Court nominees who strictly interpret the Constitution, uphold and enforce the law, and not legislate from the bench,” said Megan Piwowar, Hugin’s communications director.

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