Robert Menendez was born in New York City and now resides in Hoboken, N.J. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science and urban studies in 1976 from St. Peter's College and a law degree in 1979 from Rutgers University.
He was elected school trustee for the Union City Board of Education in 1974, and was named the board's chief financial officer in 1978.
He was elected mayor of Union City in 1986, serving until 1992. He was elected to the state Assembly in 1987, serving until his election to the state Senate in 1991.
Menendez was elected to the U.S. House in 1992. He was appointed to the Senate in 2006 by then-Gov. Jon Corzine, who had vacated the Senate seat when he became governor. Menendez won election to the seat later that year.
Menendez is divorced and has two children.
Robert Menendez is seeking re-election in 2012 against a close political ally of Gov. Chris Christie, Republican state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos.
Menendez served in 2010 as the head of the Senate Democrats' campaign arm, a high-profile position that put him in the inner circle of his party's operations in Washington.
Though he no longer has that role, he has remained a prominent voice on issues including the nation's policy regarding Cuba, the beef additive known as "pink slime" and the New York Police Department's secret surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey and elsewhere.
While New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1972, Menendez has not always had a smooth road. In 2010, a tea party-connected group, troubled by support of the 2010 health care reform bill and stance on other issues, tried to have him recalled. But the state Supreme Court found the challenged violated the U.S. Constitution.
In 2011, Menendez called for the federal Justice Department to investigate the New York Police Department program that gathered intelligence on Muslims, including many outside of New York.
In 2012, he called for the beef additive known as "pink slime" to be listed among ingredients when it is included in meat products sold in grocery stores.
Menendez voted against a 2011 compromise to increase the federal government's borrowing limit, saying the measure would shrink benefits "on the backs of working-class Americans."
Menendez has often spoken against allowing oil drilling off the New Jersey shoreline.
He has also called for assurances that New Jersey's four nuclear power plant reactors are safe. In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged a plant in Japan, he wrote to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to question whether the New Jersey plants had safeguards in place.
Menendez is the son of Cuban immigrants and New Jersey's first Hispanic senator. He actively supports a continued embargo on Fidel Castro's Cuba. He slowed passage of a major spending bill — and the confirmation of several administration officials — because the bill contained changes in rules on Cuban-American travel.
Menendez has said the United States needs to keep the pressure on Castro "so that one day we may see democracy in Cuba so that one day there will be free elections with multiple political parties participating in an open electoral system."
He is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and global narcotics affairs.
Committee Assignments: Foreign Relations; Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
American Conservative Union Rating: 15
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 90
Bob Menendez is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 11, 2014.)