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Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., reportedly won by a large margin over the state’s first lady Tammy Murphy in New Jersey’s first Democratic convention on Saturday.
The third-term congressman’s early victory against Murphy in Monmouth County was significant, as they will continue to compete in the primary contest to convince the state’s 20 other counties they are the best Democratic candidate to put forward in the race to replace embattled longtime Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
“If we can win here, where they’ve lived for decades here, I think it sends a very strong message across all of the counties,” Kim said about Murphy and her husband, Gov. Phil Murphy.
The powerful couple have resided in Monmouth County for about 25 years, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, Kim represents part of the same county in Congress.
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., speaks during an American Federation of Government Employees rally for worker’s rights on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Kim is running to replace Sen. Bob Menendez. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“The energy that we have is real, and it should not be underestimated,” Kim said after securing the county-line in Monmouth, meaning his name will appear on the ballot with other Democratic candidates endorsed by the county in a single column, making those on the party line appear more legitimate to voters.
Kim secured 56.8% of the vote, while Murphy won 38.8%, Politico reported. Another candidate, progressive labor activist Patricia Campos-Medina, took 4.2%.
That means Kim secured a 265-181 win in the convention where 466 votes were cast.
Kim had been the presumed underdog given the first lady’s high-profile status, fundraising power and early support from county leaders in some of the state’s most Democratic areas, according to Politico. Yet the same day she saw defeat in Monmouth County, located along the Jersey shore, Murphy picked up an endorsement from the Passaic County Democrats.
“[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 obtained by Politico. “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.”
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy addresses fans during the homecoming celebration for the 2023 NWSL Champions event on Nov. 20, 2023 in Harrison, N.J. She is in the primary contest for Bob Menendez’s U.S. Senate seat. (Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images)
The June primary is shaping up as a battle, so far, between Kim and Murphy, though other Democrats are also campaigning in the race.
On Friday, Alex Zdan, 38, a former news reporter for News 12 New Jersey, announced his candidacy as a Republican in the race to replace Menendez.
Last month, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., notably backed Kim in the congressman’s bid to win the contested primary for New Jersey’s Senate seat.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., arrives to the Senate Chambers on Jan. 25, 2024, in Washington, D.C. So far, Menendez has refused calls to resign from his party. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Fetterman was an early proponent of calling for Menendez’s ouster from Congress after federal prosecutors charged Menendez, his wife and business associates with taking bribes in cash and gold bars in exchange for helping the government of Egypt — and, in a later indictment, Qatar as well.
Menendez and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty, and the senator has vowed to fight the charges. Unlike the first time he was indicted — charges that ultimately led to a hung jury in 2017 — Menendez has lost support within the Democratic Party in his home state, where his influence was once virtually unassailable.
Amid a pitched internal struggle among New Jersey Democrats who have called for Menendez’s ouster and are competing to succeed him, Menendez hasn’t said if he’ll run again and has so far withstood calls for his resignation. Fetterman joins fellow Pennsylvanian Gov. Josh Shapiro in wading into the race. Shapiro has raised money for Murphy, according to her campaign.
The Associated Press contributed to this reported.