How Andy Kim Took on New Jersey’s Political Machine

March 28, 2024

Last September, when Bob Menendez, the senior senator from New Jersey, was indicted—along with his wife, Nadine—in a garish bribery scheme involving gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz, one of the first elected officials to call for his resignation was Andy Kim, a congressman who represents the state’s Third District. The next day, Kim announced that he was running to replace Menendez in the U.S. Senate, anticipating a head-to-head challenge in the Democratic primary. But then, several weeks later, Tammy Murphy, the wife of Governor Phil Murphy and the most powerful woman in the state, announced her own candidacy for Senate. Elected officials, Party bureaucrats, and labor unions endorsed her right away. “When the First Lady came into the race,” Kim told me, “I had several senior Democratic leaders in the state call me and encourage me to drop out.”

New Jersey is the only state in the nation with this type of bracketed ballot design. According to Julia Sass Rubin, a public-policy professor at Rutgers, a candidate who gets the line enjoys a double-digit advantage over the competition; the line is also a barrier to entry for new politicians and those perceived as outsiders. It breeds patronage: party leaders have used their power over the line to extract jobs, government contracts, and donations. Kim came out against the county line shortly before he declared his Senate run; last month, he filed a federal lawsuit claiming that it is unconstitutional.

The New Yorker, March 28, 2024

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