Former NJ news personality launches GOP bid for Menendez Senate seat

A former TV news reporter known for his aggressive on-camera demeanor is getting into New Jersey’s U.S. Senate race as a Republican candidate for the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who’s facing federal corruption charges.

Alex Zdan, 38, a former news reporter for News 12 New Jersey, announced his candidacy Friday in an online video showing him at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, where he called for an end to illegal border crossings in what has emerged as a major campaign theme for Republican candidates nationwide. The video depicts gaps in the border fence.

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Zdan joins a GOP field that is quickly filling with candidates, including Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner and southern New Jersey businessman Curtis Bashaw on the GOP side. New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1972, but Republicans are hoping the turmoil surrounding Menendez gives them a pickup opportunity in the narrowly divided chamber.

The Democratic primary remains unsettled, with Menendez not yet saying if he’ll seek reelection even as he has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he took bribes in exchange for helping foreign countries. He’s vowed to fight the charges, though many of his fellow Democrats have abandoned him and some have said he should resign.

A contest between New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy and Rep. Andy Kim is taking center stage, though other Democrats, including civil rights activists Lawrence Hamm and labor leader Patricia Campos-Medina, have also stepped into the ring.

Zdan left TV journalism after being laid off during cutbacks at News 12 late last year. He frequently clashed with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy during the governor’s COVID-19 news conferences, asking aggressive questions, and got attention in 2020 when he told a Trump supporter who interrupted a news report to “buzz off.”

In a phone interview, Zdan said it’s time for a new generation of conservative leaders focused on winning working class and multicultural voters and that he decided to move from journalism to politics because he views reporting as a public service.

“If you know me and you know my energy and my abilities and my desire to serve and make people’s lives better, it kind of makes sense to go from the anchor desk to the floor of Congress,” he said.