Why I want to challenge Bob Menendez in a bid for senator

My name is Michael Starr Hopkins, and I am exploring a bid to become the next U.S. senator from New Jersey. I am the grandson of a public school teacher and a White House butler who served eight administrations from President Kennedy to President Clinton. I am the son of a single mother who put herself through law school while raising me and has worked in Democratic politics for decades. I am the man I am today because of the strong black women who raised me.

Like my family, I have spent my career working to improve the lives of others, from my time as a public defender to my work on the Obama and Clinton campaigns. Now, I’m taking the first steps towards challenging Bob Menendez because I believe New Jersey deserves a fresh start, the chance to vote for someone who hasn’t been tainted by the culture of corruption in Trenton and Washington, someone who doesn’t owe any favors to the political establishment or powerful interests.

{mosads}U.S. senators are supposed to serve the people, not themselves. Yet Menendez was indicted for repeatedly using his position to benefit a wealthy donor in exchange for gifts, private flights, luxury vacations, and huge contributions. If what Menendez did doesn’t disqualify you from serving in the Senate, then what does?

The senator may have narrowly evaded prison with a mistrial, but voters aren’t going to forget what he’s done. Menendez has the lowest approval rating in the entire U.S. Senate, at 32 percent. The jury couldn’t make up its mind, but the people of New Jersey clearly have. Democrats don’t have a single vote to lose in the Senate, and we can’t afford to put this seat at risk by running a candidate who has clearly lost the people’s trust.

Nominating Menendez wouldn’t just hurt the chances of Democrats winning in New Jersey, however. It would damage our entire party everywhere in the country. Democrats have our best shot in years to make major gains in Congress, but in order to win in 2018, we need to offer voters a clear choice between right and wrong. How can we run against the corruption of Donald Trump if we’re excusing corruption within our own party?

Democrats need to be the solution, not part of the problem. Nominating a candidate whose name is synonymous with corruption only muddies the waters, making it easy for Republicans to cry hypocrisy and for voters across the country to say that “both parties” are rotten. The 2016 election showed that it’s not enough to just be better than the other guys. We need to actively give voters a reason to turn out. So the question for New Jersey Democrats is this: Are we going to ask voters to hold their nose and cast a ballot for Bob Menendez, or are we going to offer them something better?

There are those who will say that now is not my time. They will say that I should wait my turn and be patient. But we can’t afford to wait or be silent. I’m part of the generation that’s going to suffer the consequences of the decisions being made in Washington right now, mistakes that are going to affect the rest of our lives. From the effects of global warming to crippling student loans to shrinking economic opportunity, these are issues that are primarily going to impact young people, yet they’re being debated in a body where the average senator is 63 years old.

We can’t afford to wait for change to come to us. It’s time for the next generation of leaders to rise up and demand it. It’s time to reaffirm that health care is a right, not a privilege, and fight for Medicare for all. In the America I know and love, no one should ever be denied the best health care possible based on their income, or wonder if they will die of a curable disease because they can’t afford proper coverage.

It’s time we talk about addressing the pipeline that leaves so many Americans at the will of our criminal justice system, about reforming our education system so that Americans are prepared to enter the workforce, and not left drowning in student loan debt. It’s time that we restore our cities, and bring hope and opportunity back to the forgotten.

It’s time we talk about building a tax code that works for everyone, and rebuilding a country that for decades has benefited the richest at the expense of the middle class. For far too long those in power have used their access and their influence to create two Americas, and for far too long they have gone unchallenged.

I can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch the country that I love flounder under morally and ethically corrupt leadership. I can no longer sit back and watch our nation move backwards when I know we can do better. I can no longer encourage other people to stand up and enter the public sphere if I am not willing to do the same. If you agree that it’s time for new leadership in New Jersey and across this country, join me at www.michaelstarrhopkins.com.

Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.

Tags Americans Barack Obama Bob Menendez campaign Congress Democrats Donald Trump Election Government Hillary Clinton Politics Senate United States

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