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Murphy drops NJ Senate bid a day before filing deadline

Video does not mention Rep. Andy Kim, Democratic rival who challenged party ‘line’

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife Tammy, attend the inauguration before Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife Tammy, attend the inauguration before Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Tammy Murphy, New Jersey’s first lady, said Sunday she was suspending her Senate campaign a day before the deadline for candidates to file to run in the Democratic primary in June.

“After many busy, invigorating and, yes, challenging months, I am suspending my Senate campaign today,” Murphy said in a video posted to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I have been genuine and factual throughout, but it is clear to me that continuing in this race will involve waging a very divisive and negative campaign, which I am not willing to do. And with Donald Trump on the ballot and so much at stake for our nation, I will not in good conscience waste resources tearing down a fellow Democrat.”

Her statement, which was more than three minutes, did not mention her main rival, Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, even as she said she would focus on party unity this year and reelecting President Joe Biden. Kim, who now faces a clear path to the nomination for the seat currently held by Sen. Bob Menendez, did not immediately respond to Murphy’s announcement. 

The Democratic primary for New Jersey’s Senate seat became competitive last year after Menendez was indicted on federal bribery charges and allegations that he acted as a foreign agent. Kim, who flipped a House seat in 2018, announced a campaign the day after the charges against Menendez were announced. 

Senate candidate and Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., has challenged New Jersey’s system that lets county party leaders award a preferential ballot placement to endorsed candidates, a process known as “the line.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive like her husband Gov. Phil Murphy, later announced her own campaign and drew support from the state’s Democratic establishment. But Kim has used his campaign to push back against New Jersey’s political system, in which candidates who are on “the line” receive preferential ballot placement in the primary, and his support has surged. Kim sued to challenge the state’s ballot design and the state’s attorney general said last week that he would not defend the system. 

In her statement, Tammy Murphy derided the focus on “process” issues during the campaign, but groups backing Kim saw her decision as a victory even as they await a court ruling on the ballot design lawsuit.

“Today’s news is a direct result of the grassroots, people-powered campaign that Congressman Andy Kim has built,” End Citizens United // Let America Vote President Tiffany Muller said in a statement. “The people of New Jersey are ready for a new generation of leadership that puts government back on the side of working families. First Lady Tammy Murphy has done great work for New Jersey families, and she put up a good fight in this race.” 

Murphy’s decision follows Menendez’s announcement last week that he would not seek the Democratic nomination, but that he hoped to run as an “independent Democrat” if he is exonerated at trial. Menendez has maintained his innocence and resisted calls from fellow Democrats to resign from the Senate. To get on the November ballot, he would have to file by June 4, primary day, which is a month after his trial is scheduled to begin.

Inside Elections with Nathan L Gonzales rates the Senate race this fall as Solid Democratic.

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