SPRINGFIELD (Union) – The likely Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez kicked off his campaign Tuesday. He is a retired pharmaceutical executive expected to spend significant amounts of money on the race.

Former Celgene executive Bob Hugin said he’s offended and embarrassed by Menendez, whose trial on corruption charges ended in November with a hung jury. After a judge then threw out some of the charges, federal prosecutors opted to drop the case rather than try the senator again.

“We will make the case loud and clear that New Jersey deserves better from our next senator. New Jersey deserves a senator as good as its people, not one working to stay one step ahead of the law,” Hugin said.

“He must be, and he will be, held accountable by the voters this November,” Hugin said.

Hugin, 63, was raised in Union City and now lives in Summit. He graduated from Princeton University in 1976, then served in the Marines until 1983. From 1999 until recently, he was a top executive at the biopharmaceutical company Celgene.

“Celgene changed my life. It gave a new sense of purpose and mission to my life. You meet cancer patients, you know you work for,” Hugin said.

Celgene last summer agreed to pay $280 million to settle claims it marketed two of its cancer drugs for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hugin didn’t take questions from reporters Tuesday.

New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1972, and Democrats are looking to capture some of the five House seats now held by the GOP and add them to the Democrats’ seven.

Hugin has donated significantly to Gov. Chris Christie’s political committees plus other Republican efforts – though has also given to some Democrats, including $4,800 to Menendez in 2010.

A newcomer as a candidate, he described himself as a fiscal conservative and said he would prioritize health care reform if elected, but he didn’t get into detail about the issues.

“I will be an independent voice for New Jersey in Washington,” Hugin said. “If Gov. Murphy or Sen. Booker have a good idea that makes sense for New Jersey, I will stand up and support them. And if President Trump or any other Republican has an idea or a view that’s bad for New Jersey, I will forcefully stand up and disagree with them.”

Menendez hasn’t formally filed for re-election.

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