Collins and Menendez give voters tough midterm choice

They’re caught between a “crook” and a hard place.

Voters in two closely contested races in New York and New Jersey are facing a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t decision in the midterm elections, choosing between backing scandal-scarred candidates, or risking their party’s control in Congress.

In the Garden State, Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez — whose slew of controversies includes federal bribery charges he dodged last year thanks to a hung jury — holds a mere 5-point lead over Republican challenger Bob Hugin, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton survey released Wednesday.

And in western New York’s 27th Congressional District, which includes many suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester, GOP Rep. Chris Collins — who’s been indicted for insider trading — is clinging to a 3-point lead over Democratic upstart Nate McMurray, according to an Oct. 16 Siena College / Spectrum poll.

The quandary leaves some New Jersey Democrats and Buffalo-area Republicans feeling forced to pull the lever for their unappealing incumbents to help their party keep — or grab — control of the House and Senate.

“Menendez is a crook,” said Jonathan Eaton, a registered nurse who lives in Jersey City.

“Unfortunately, he’s the best poison at this point. It’s like chemotherapy: it will solve the big problem, but at the same time I don’t feel comfortable doing what I’m doing.”

“I’d like to see at least a split house in the Senate, because I want the most people against the guy I see leading us down a rotten path,” said the 45-year-old, referring to President Trump. “We need Menendez in order for that to happen.”

Hoboken financial services worker Nick Faraguna also regards Menendez as a necessary evil.

“The largest factor for me is having a more Democratic Congress at this time, considering our president and what he’s doing with his power,” said the 35-year-old.

“I would have liked to see a different candidate, but I’ll still be voting for [Menendez]. I’m thinking more of his party and less of him as an individual, because we don’t really have a choice in this election.”

At a get-out-the-vote rally Wednesday in Elma, N. Y. southeast of Buffalo , former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told a crowd of GOP supporters that the midterms would be “actually the first re-election of Donald Trump.”

Republicans waiting to get into the event were all for treating their ballots as a referendum on Trump — if only to sugarcoat the bitter pill that is supporting Collins.

“I’m not too happy about Collins. [The indictment] does look pretty bad,” said Daniel Kancar, a 45-year-old self-employed landlord from Tonawanda, NY. “But in this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty. I’ll support Collins because he supports Trump.”

Another Collins supporter had the same view.

“We need to keep the House, and keep people in the House who support [Trump’s] agenda,” said Shawn Mulvaney, a 49-year-old adjunct college instructor from West Seneca, NY. “I don’t know if [Collins] is innocent or not, but I’m not blind to the indictment, and it doesn’t look good.”

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