Do Over A Million People In New Jersey Care About Recalling Bob Menendez?

The short answer, probably not.

The long answer is the reactionary campaign, spearheaded by Branchville resident RoseAnn Salanitri, to oust Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in a recall election has gone further than many had expected in the courts. Originally held up by the New Jersey Secretary of State as being unfeasible under the U.S. Constitution, as the document only specifies that senators serve six-year terms and provides no method of removing them by recall, the New Jersey Supreme Court a New Jersey appellate court allowed the campaign to proceed.

An appeal by Menendez is currently being reviewed by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Assuming they sidestep the issue like the lower court did, the campaign can go ahead and if it reaches the required amount of signatures, a recall election may go ahead, which may be unconstitutional and thereby require a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. And if Menendez’s recall were to be upheld, SCOTUS would have to send an order to Congress to amend the Constitution.

Salanitri and her campaign would have almost a year to come up with 1.3 million signatures (one-quarter of NJ’s registered voters) in time to organizing a recall election by the fall of 2011. Factor the legal debate following that could be held up for months in the U.S. Supreme Court, and then you’re at the beginning of 2012, the year when Menendez is up for re-election anyway.

So why not just wait?

Or why choose Menendez? Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has virtually an identical voting record, but Salanitri and her campaign have targeted Menendez instead because he’s not 80-years-old and stricken with stomach cancer.

They figure they’ll ruin Menendez early.

Salanitri’s something of a late bloomer when it comes to political activism, having not casted a vote in an election until the age of 40. A creationist who authored a book on standing up to Darwinist arguments called GUTs All Tied Up In Strings, she says her impetus to recall Menendez is based on his voting for the health care bill and stimulus bill, stating that his reckless spending is not allowed under the Constitution.

She’s one part of a patchwork of Tea Party groups that have recall on the brain. But what’s suspect is if they really have the support to bring people out outside of the typical election year. New Jersey voters haven’t exactly been enthusiastic; even during 2008’s Senate elections, a presidential election year, only about two-thirds of voters showed up at the polls, and a tenth of that voted in the Democratic primary (even fewer in the Republican primary). In the gubernatorial elections the following year, less than half of all registered voters turned out.

Or put it this way; more people would have to sign the ballot to recall Menendez than voted for Chris Christie.

Is it impossible? Certainly not. But despite only tepid interest now (Mrs. Salanitri’s followers on Twitter, for example, number less than 20), there’s a good chance conservative media will put a spotlight on this issue as it raises a number of legal challenges that are fodder for states’ rights and small government advocates. And it’s subject to many interpretations. For example, Menendez is a federal employee put there by the state of New Jersey. So he doesn’t just serve New Jersey, he serves the entire country, but represents New Jersey. Under that reasoning, a recall would have to be national, not statewide.

That’s a lot more signatures.

Judging by Menendez’s predecessor, Jon Corzine, the wiser move for Salanitri and others looking to get Menendez out of office is to convince the senator to run for governor.

Article corrected June 22, 2010—The New Jersey Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the case and signatures can not be collected until an appeal by Menendez is considered.