COLTS NECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A war of words has erupted in New Jersey’s Senate race over a vicious attack add filled with unproven accusations.
In the annals of political ads, it’s particularly savage. Republican candidate Bob Hugin accused Sen. Robert Menendez of allegedly having sex with underage prostitutes, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday.
“President Obama’s Justice Department had evidence that for several years Menendez had been traveling to the Dominican Republic to engage in sexual activity with prostitutes, some of whom were minors,” the attack ad states.
Menendez, who spent years battling corruption charges that were eventually dropped following a hung jury, said Wednesday the allegations in the ad were unproven lies from a desperate GOP campaign.
“Which stoops so low with its bogus lies that it might as well have been directed by Donald Trump, himself. These are lies. I know it, you know it, and Bob Hugin damn sure knows it,” Sen. Menendez said.
Menendez said fact checkers at the Washington Post, New York Times and other media outlets also said the ad was unproven, and he’s airing his own ad to refute Hugin’s ad.
“Bob Hugin is lying about Bob Menendez. The FBI has found no evidence in the case and Hugin knows it,” the senator’s add says.
“This deceitful and despicable attack ad tells you everything you need to know about Republican Bob Hugin, that he is a slimeball, he’s a misogynist and he’s a liar,” Menendez said.
Hugin has spent $23 million on his campaign, compared to Menendez’s $7 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“Everything we put in those ads are completely true and fact-checked,” Hugin said, adding when told of Menendez’s reaction, “Remember, his best friend is a convicted felon.”
CBS2’s Kramer asked Hugin about the name calling.
“He can say all the words he wants. If he lives his life in the gutter, that’s his choice. I have lived my life with honor and integrity,” Hugin said.
This as a new Quinnipiac poll has Menendez ahead 51-44.
The race is worrisome for Democrats because New Jersey is a state where the large number of independent voters can determine the outcome.
Hugin is leading Menendez among independents, 51-44.
With the election just under three weeks away, the polls are close enough that anything can happen.
The campaign’s first and only debate is set for Oct. 24 on NJTV.