The 2024 election cycle contains three important candidates facing major legal troubles, a prospect posing a nightmare for their respective parties.
Former President Donald Trump, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Rep. George Santos (R-NY) have all been indicted on significant charges, causing headaches for their parties in 2024. Santos and Menendez, who are running for reelection in 2024, have both refused to resign, and Trump seems to see his indictments as only reinvigorating his campaign for the highest office in the land.
Their resilience aside, the legal troubles have posed a nightmare for their parties.
Trump made history this year as the first former president in United States history to be indicted. He was indicted five times in four separate criminal cases and has pleaded innocence on every charge, portraying it all as politically targeted persecution.
Trump’s legal troubles are unique among the three, as they have garnered him even more support from Republicans, who overwhelmingly view the indictments as a political “witch hunt.” He has garnered the most support among the three indicted figures, and the legal troubles have hurt him the least.
Despite this, the indictments pose a considerable challenge to his chances in the general election. Many Republicans fear that though the indictments shore up his support among Republicans, they hurt him in the eyes of independents and swing state voters.
An August Politico Magazine-Ipsos poll found that 53% of independents believe that Trump is guilty of the charges against him. One-third of those polled answered that a conviction against Trump would make them less likely to support him.
The alarming accusations against Santos came to light soon after his election and before he was sworn into office. The widespread accusations of extensive fraud prompted a House Ethics investigation in March and federal indictments in May. He was indicted on 13 counts: seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.
Though he has pleaded innocence, the perceived credibility of the accusations, as well as material evidence of many falsehoods he claimed during his campaign, has all but crushed his chances at reelection. The prospect has alarmed Republicans because Santos holds an important swing seat in New York. With Republicans only holding a small majority in the House, the party is desperate to hold on to every seat possible.
Two prominent Republicans have already emerged to primary Santos: Air Force veteran and attorney Greg Hach and Afghanistan veteran Kellen Curry. Both have targeted the charges against Santos as a leading reason as to why they are aiming to unseat him.
“I’m as confused about George Santos’s life as he is,” Hach told the Washington Examiner in an interview last month. “He’s a con man. He’s a crook. I definitely support the House’s decision to censure Santos. He’s failed to address any of the issues that affect the residents of the 3rd District.”
Curry, who has earned the support of several leading Republicans, made a similar statement in explaining his candidacy.
“It’s no secret that our current congressman is toxic and busy defending himself instead of serving New York,” Curry told the Washington Examiner last month.
“I’m running to restore the constituency services that have gone missing, defend our national security, and offer real solutions to help our veterans and middle-class families deal with inflation and the high cost of living on Long Island. I’m not wasting any time in building the relationships in D.C. that will help me deliver results for NY-3,” Curry added.
Menendez and his wife, Nadine, were recently indicted by a grand jury on bribery charges. The charges revolved around an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen and the Egyptian government. He is accused of using his prestigious position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to aid Egypt and provide them with confidential information.
The New Jersey Democrat has fervently denied the charges and remained firm in his commitment to remain in office. However, Democrats afraid of the corruption charges tarnishing their image have unleashed a flood of calls to resign. Menendez met them halfway by stepping down from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he denounced those seeking his resignation, hinting that racism may be the cause.
“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades,” he said in a statement.
“This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere,” he added.