Andy Kim sinks first lady Tammy Murphy in NJ Senate race’s first Democratic convention 


LONG BRANCH, New Jersey — Rep. Andy Kim on Saturday won by a wide margin in New Jersey’s first Democratic convention in the Senate primary to replace indicted Sen. Bob Menendez, handing first lady Tammy Murphy a stinging defeat in her home county.

Murphy has been presumed the frontrunner because of her high-profile status as the first lady, her massive fundraising capabilities and, most importantly, the early support she’s received from county party leaders in the state’s most Democratic-rich areas. But she failed to lock up support in Monmouth County, located along the Jersey Shore.

Kim won the contest in a blowout, winning 56.8 percent of the vote. Murphy won 38.8 percent while another candidate, progressive labor activist Patricia Campos-Medina, won 4.2 percent. There were 466 votes cast.

Kim, speaking with reporters after the vote, said he came into the contest and “legitimately did not know” what the outcome would be.

“It shows there’s nothing inevitable about this race,” Kim said. “There’s nothing inevitable. There’s no sense anybody is destined to be able to win this thing. It confirmed what I’ve always thought — we’re the campaign that has the momentum.”

Murphy briefly spoke with Kim after his victory and promptly left the convention. Her campaign highlighted Murphy’s endorsement from Passaic County Democrats the same day.

“[Tammy Murphy] is thrilled by the groundswell of support she has received from faith leaders, community members, elected officials, unions, and now Passaic County,” spokesperson Alex Altman said in a statement. “Tammy is grateful for all the votes she received today from Monmouth County and is thankful to all the delegates that stayed in the room during the long day. Tammy congratulated Andy on a hard fought win today in Monmouth and she looks forward to continuing her work to build a strong coalition across the state and earning the support of New Jersey voters.”

The victory has both practical and symbolic purposes. It shows that Kim’s candidacy has momentum and that he can foster support from rank-and-file Democrats, which will be critical to counter Murphy’s institutional support from Democratic party leaders across the state. While on the stump before the convention vote, Kim received raucous applause compared to tepid cheers for Murphy.

It also means that Kim will get the so-called county line in Monmouth — a unique feature of New Jersey’s primary ballot. Nearly the entire state — save for two counties — use the so-called party line system, where party-endorsed candidates appear on the ballot together in a single column, making them appear more legitimate to voters. Other candidates could theoretically form their own rival “line” of candidates on the ballot, although that seldom happens. Kim winning the convention means that he will appear with other party-endorsed candidates down the ballot.

Each county in the state differs in how their county party awards the line, although in some parts of the state the support of a single party leader is all that’s needed. Others, like Monmouth, host conventions where local party officials are able to vote on who they want to endorse.

Murphy already has the so-called line locked up in some of the most Democrat-heavy counties in the central and northern parts of the state thanks to the help of influential party leaders — several of whom have financial interest with Gov. Phil Murphy in office.

The governor himself was at the convention. As an elected official in Monmouth County, he is entitled to vote at the convention.

Menendez, who has not said whether he’s seeking reelection as he faces corruption charges, did not participate in the Monmouth convention because,
an aide told POLITICO
, “the process is likely to be predetermined.”

Monmouth is the first Democratic county organization in the state to host a convention. According to
state data
, there are 140,000 registered Democrats here, accounting for 5.6 percent of Democratic primary voters — making the party line here a key advantage.

Kim and Murphy both have roots here. Kim represents parts of Monmouth County in Congress while Murphy has lived in Middletown, the largest town in the county, since around 2000. Both campaigns courted support from Monmouth County Democrats ahead of the convention, unveiling lists of endorsements ahead of Saturday (Murphy unveiled an endorsement list that the
New Jersey Globe reported
included people who later said they did not support her candidacy).

“If we can win here where they’ve lived for decades, I think that sends a very strong message across all the counties,” Kim said. “The energy we have is real and should not be underestimated.”

The convention also previewed the Democratic competition to replace Kim in the third congressional district, where Assemblymember Herb Conaway trounced Assemblymember Carol Murphy, who is not related to Phil or Tammy Murphy. While the district is primarily based around Burlington County, it includes parts of Mercer and Monmouth counties in the southern and central portions of the state, respectively.

Tammy Murphy — a registered Republican until 2014 — has fashioned herself as a progressive, telling convention delegates before the vote that she supports abortion rights and that “it’s high time we pass ‘Medicare for All’ because health care is a right, not a privilege.”

Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, a strong supporter of Murphy’s candidacy and a fellow resident of Monmouth County, introduced Murphy at the convention and said she was best equipped to handle abortion rights.

After the results were announced, Pallone said he was “disappointed” but was “100 percent” still supporting Murphy.

“We’re going to work hard in Monmouth County and throughout the state to make sure that she wins the primary,” he said. “And I believe that she will.”

Pallone, however, was non-committal about whether he would choose to bracket with Murphy on the primary ballot, which could make her appear more prominently to voters. Such a move would mean him eschewing the county party endorsement.

“I haven’t made a decision about what I should do,” he told reporters.

Kim told convention goers before the vote that he wanted to codify and protect abortion rights and made a reference to Menendez’s indictment — saying that constituents wouldn’t have to question his integrity.

“You deserve a representative that you can trust,” he said. “I’m not perfect. I [may cast] votes that you’re not gonna be a 100 percent in agreement of. But you will never have to question why I do what I do.”

The next Democratic county convention is Feb. 24 in Burlington County, which Kim is favored to win.

This post was originally published on Politico

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