U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is back in the limelight, but this time, he wants to be.
The Democrat, at two campaign stops Wednesday, announced he would run for a third term representing New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.
It comes just four months after a federal judge declared a mistrial in a federal corruption case against Menendez and his co-defendant, wealthy Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.
Federal prosecutors claimed that Menendez did government favors for Melgen in exchange for lavish trips to the Dominican Republic and free flights on the eye doctor’s private jet.
After more than two months of testimony, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the charges, seeming to buy the defense team’s contention that Menendez and Melgen were simply old friends and never broke the law.
Menendez did not address the case head-on Wednesday, but alluded to his belief that the Department of Justice perpetrated an overzealous prosecution.
“There’s a reason we call ourselves Jersey Strong,” Menendez said. “When the going gets tough, we get tougher.”
Menendez focused Wednesday on his promise to fight the agenda of Republican President Donald Trump, vowing instead to push for universal health care and stricter gun laws if voters re-elect him.
“I know that candidates always say that this election is the most important ever,” Menendez said, “but think about the events of the past year — the chaos, the division, the dysfunction.”
However, his likely Republican opponent is determined to knock Menendez off message and revive the allegations aired out in federal court in Newark last year.
Just as Menendez was traversing the state announcing his re-election bid, Republican opponent and former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin released a TV ad filled with news clips about Menendez’s criminal charges and trial.
“Bob Menendez may have avoided prison,” a female narrator says, “but he disgraced New Jersey.”
Hugin has reportedly vowed to dump millions of his own dollars into the campaign and does not appear shy about using it to attack Menendez.
Still, Hugin is fielding his own criticism. While he was at the helm of pharmaceutical company Celgene, the drugmaker increased the price of its popular cancer medication, Revlimid, several times.
Menendez did not mention Hugin by name Wednesday, but he seemed to take a shot at him.
“When drug companies were hiking costs on cancer patients, I was working to make medicine affordable to families and seniors,” he said.
New Jersey’s primary election is June 5.