Why AP called Rep. Rob Menendez the winner in New Jersey U.S. House primary: Race call explained

  • Canadian Press

FILE -- Rob Menendez, son of the current U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, greets supporters while holding his daughter Olivia, 2, after voting in Jersey City, N.J., June 7, 2022. In northern New Jersey's 8th District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Rob Menendez -- the senator's son -- is seeking reelection against Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who's tried to tie Rob Menendez to his father. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Associated Press declared U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez the winner of the Democratic primary for New Jersey's 8th Congressional District based on the incumbent's lead throughout the district in initial vote results. He defeated Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and real estate executive Kyle Jasey.

The safe Democratic seat was not in danger of falling into Republicans' hands this November regardless of who won the primary, but the race does serve as the first test of the Menendez family's political future in the state following U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez's indictment and subsequent trial on federal corruption charges. Rob Menendez is Bob Menendez's son.

Here's a look at how the AP called the 8th District Democratic primary,:

U.S. House from New Jersey, 8th District (D)

CANDIDATES: Menendez, Bhalla, Jasey

WINNER: Menendez

CALLED AT: 9:19 p.m. ET


ABOUT THE RACE: Menendez is running for a second term in Congress against the backdrop of his father's indictment and ongoing federal trial. Bhalla mounted a strong challenge by trying to tie Menendez to his father's ongoing scandal, as well as outraising and outspending the incumbent as of mid-May.

WHY AP CALLED THE RACE: At the time the AP declared Menendez the winner, the incumbent had built a sizable districtwide lead over Bhalla, as well as in each of the three counties that makes up the district in the New York City suburbs.

In order to win, Bhalla would have needed a strong showing in Hudson County, which comprises most of the votes in the district and includes his base, Hoboken, the county's fourth-largest municipality. But Menendez, who also hails from Hudson County, had built a double-digit lead there. That lead grew slightly in the half-hour after the race was called. He was ahead in Essex and Union counties by even wider margins.

Menendez also led across the district's political demographics, winning in both the strong and moderate Democratic-voting areas. Bhalla had the backing of some progressive groups in the district, but that did not translate into enough votes to overcome Menendez's sizable lead among moderates.