1) He started his political career while attending St. Peter's College when he was elected to a school board in Union City, NJ. From the New York Times:
"It was the first step in a now-storied journey through the briar patch of New Jersey Democratic politics: School board member, mayor, assemblyman, state senator, congressman, House Democratic Caucus chair, and now, at last, United States senator, a position he was named to yesterday by the man he will replace next month, New Jersey's governor-elect, Jon S. Corzine."
2) When he joined the Senate in 2006, he was the sixth Hispanic to ever do so. From USA Today:
"Menendez becomes the third Hispanic currently serving in the Senate, and only the sixth Hispanic to ever serve in the body. More than 200 people attended the ceremony, some from south Florida, attesting to Menendez's strong ties to Cuban-Americans.
His parents emigrated from Cuba before Menendez was born, and he often speaks of being raised in a Union City, N.J., tenement building and being the first in his family to go to college."
3) He was considered by Al Gore's campaign as a potential Vice President. From the New York Times:
"During the Elián González saga, Mr. Menendez introduced a bill to make Elián a citizen. The bill did not go anywhere, but it caught the eye of Al Gore's campaign advisers, who, for a brief moment, flirted with the idea of Mr. Menendez as a possible running mate, thinking his Cuban roots could help win Florida. He ended up not getting picked, though he worked doggedly on Mr. Gore's campaign."
4) He is a member of the bi-partisan Senate group known as the Gang of Eight. After the Senate passed the immigration reform bill, Menendez said this to NJ.com:
"I think the strong bipartisan vote in the Senate is a strong message to the House that there is no reason not to pursue immigration. It's a bipartisan point of view. The eyes of the whole nation will be on the House of Representatives."
5) He became Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee when John Kerry was named Secretary of State, making Menendez the first Hispanic to chair the committee. From TIME:
When John Kerry is confirmed to succeed Hillary Clinton President Obama’s Secretary of State, as he’s expected to be in the coming weeks, he will leave the gavel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Bob Menendez, a second-term New Jersey Democrat.
Rarely has such a transfer of power offered such a study in opposites.
Menendez, who is Cuban American, is the first Latino elected to the U.S. House and Senate from New Jersey and would become the first Latino chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.
6) He rings in the New Year in a special way. From the Huffington Post:
"Bob was born in New York City on January 1, 1954."
7) He has been the subject of an Ethics Committee Investigation, but has denied any wrongdoing. From the Associated Press:
The New Jersey Democrat heads the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee at a time when tensions with Syria, Iran and North Korea are rising. At home, the Cuban-American lawmaker is at the center of the immigration overhaul fight that's captivating Capitol Hill.
All the while, a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into Menendez's conduct persists, with many of the same questions about politics, money and influence that have dogged members of Congress through history: When does helping a supporter become a quid pro quo?
First published July 6 2013, 11:44 AM