Eight years ago, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted on bribery charges for reportedly offering political favors in exchange for luxury vacations and accommodations.

Ultimately he was acquitted, but New Jersey’s 69-year-old senior senator is again under federal scrutiny and the 35-year-old mayor of Roselle Park in Union County plans to challenge him in next year’s primary.

According to Mayor Joe Signorello, Menendez has become a bit of a cloud over the Democratic Party in the Garden State.

“Democrats are consistently talking about good government, what makes good government, why the Republican Party has kind of gone off the rails," he said. "I think we have to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk."

Signorello suggested that part of that “means taking out folks that don’t represent those values.”

Signorello believes Menendez has done the minimum of what a Democrat should be doing for the state of New Jersey.

He said there are important issues that need to be addressed like regulation of social media, artificial intelligence and regulation of cryptocurrency.

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“There’s a bunch of things that New Jersey should be pioneering and at the forefront of and we just haven’t seen that from our delegation at all.”

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A new cloud of uncertainty

He also questioned the ability of Menendez — himself a former mayor of Union City before he embarked on a now-30-year tenure on Capitol Hill as congressman and senator — to remain effective after previously facing federal charges and dealing with a new cloud of uncertainty

“The corruption charges lead into a real inability to enact positive change and be a leader, versus the tail that’s getting wagged by the dog,” he said.

Worried about retribution?

Signorello said he knows he could face retribution from the incumbent senator if his primary challenge is not successful.

“My potential political career if I were to lose this is limited but I didn’t get in this to be a life-long politician, I got in this to do the right thing," he said.

He said that part of the problem in New Jersey is “a fear to step out and say the right thing, and if I get punished for it I’m going to shine a light on that too. This isn’t Vladimir Putin’s Russia where we should be afraid to speak out against the machine.”

His pitch to voters

Signorello, who works in the financial sector said his pitch to voters is simple and straightforward.

“I am, I think, a good intersection of a small-town mayor with global understanding. I’ve lived in Germany, I’ve worked in Switzerland.”

A request for comment made to Menendez’s office was not immediately answered.

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