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Sopranos Democrats

It's Jersey. Fuhgedaboudit

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Another dispatch from the dusty, dangerous political trail by Clint Carson

When I last left y’all, I was explaining why Democrats always get away with it while Republicans always lose their strays.

And since then, the Bob Menendez (D) trial began in New Jersey.

Trust me, the Garden State is not particularly high on my list of favorite subjects, and even less so its corrupt politicians, but hey, I don’t make the news.

Bob Menendez, New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, finds himself in the federal crosshairs for bribery. That he’s another example in a long line of political criminals is unremarkable, but there is particularly important real-time political implications to this otherwise run-of-the-mill graft trial.

Should Senor Sen. Menendez find himself convicted, he would be in danger of expulsion from the Senate, and if that were to happen quickly enough (and rest assured the crime syndicate known as the Democratic Party is leaving no stone unturned to delay, delay, delay), the Dems will find themselves down a U.S. Senate seat, as outgoing Republican governor Chris Christie would appoint a Republican (or perhaps even himself) to the vacated seat. And that could prove crucial in coming months for votes on tax reform, judicial appointments, DACA, “repeal and replace,” and any other manner of legislative endeavor in the next session of Congress.

But having their most prominent officeholders in legal jeopardy is nothing new for mafia-style New Jersey Democrats. And they know just how to handle it.

In 2002, then-New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli was indicted for crimes strikingly similar to those of his successor Senor Menendez. Contrary to state law, and only 36 days before the general election, New Jersey Democrats summarily dumped the imperiled Torricelli and re-installed the just-retired former Sen. Frank Lautenberg. With statewide name recognition and vast personal wealth with which to campaign (obviating the need to fundraise in the short timeframe before the election), Lautenberg rescued the seat for the Democrats. (Lautenberg would die in office in 2013).

The electoral clock is similarly ticking in this latest case of Jersey sleaze, but as is appropriate to this politically-perverted state, not on Menendez, but Christie. Christie is term-limited, so at a minimum, if Menendez’s trial continues past Election Day (as appears likely today), Democrat hacks will argue that a lame-duck governor should not be appointing a new senator and that the appointment should be left for the new governor (even more so, as it also appears likely that the unpopular Christie will be succeeded by a Democrat).

To his credit, the trial judge denied efforts to suspend trial proceedings to allow Menendez to travel back to Washington for Senate votes. But given the history of New Jersey Senate sleaze, don’t think Garden State or D.C. Democrats are going to leave Chris Christie to his own devices or the Republicans in Washington to seat a Republican replacement for Menendez if/when he’s convicted prior to the incoming New Jersey governor’s inaugural in January. Honor, decorum and precedent are side issues when it comes to preserving power, and as Democrats have demonstrated thoroughly in New Jersey, they’re willing to go to the mattresses to protect their guys. Maybe we should call it the “The Sopranos Standard.”