Kim’s challenge to New Jersey’s first lady is shaking up a key Senate race

Mount Laurel, N.J.: When New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy walked up to Rep. Andy Kim last weekend to congratulate him with a handshake after his third consecutive win in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat, the goodwill gesture represented a surprise within a surprise.

The Senate seat only became competitive because incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez had been unexpectedly indicted last year on federal corruption charges. And Kim’s wins in three state county committee votes so far have fueled sudden momentum for the mild-mannered three-term congressman, who is mounting a more formidable challenge than is typical against a well-connected political figure in a state where connections count for a lot.

As surprising as they were, Kim’s wins in three counties so far, including his and the first lady’s home turf, hardly settle anything. Murphy, who comes from the world of high finance and has spent years cultivating allies among state party leaders, has already secured the support of party bosses in the more populous counties of Bergen, Camden and Essex.

Still, the wins by Kim suggest that the race for the Democratic nomination won’t be easy for anyone. It pits Kim, perhaps best known for being spotted cleaning debris from the U.S. Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection three years ago, against Murphy, who is married to Gov. Phil Murphy has made maternal mortality her signature issue in her role as first lady.

Kim’s lawsuit signals that he still believes New Jersey’s way of giving better ballot positioning to candidates favored by local insiders could give Murphy an unfair advantage, a view shared by many political observers.

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