How Donald Trump, Joe Biden and grassroots liberals could upend Democratic politics in one of the country’s bluest states

March 24, 2024

The end of the line could be near for New Jersey’s almighty political machine.

A federal judge in Trenton is poised to rule as early as this week on a lawsuit aimed at kneecapping local bigwigs’ influence over party primaries and the nominating process. First lady Tammy Murphy’s suspension of her campaign on Sunday, however, has raised questions about the urgency of a decision ahead of the June 4 primary.

Democratic Senate candidate Andy Kim is asking the court for a preliminary injunction banishing the so-called party line – a ballot structure that allows county leaders to give preferential placement to their endorsed primary hopefuls. A ruling in the South Jersey congressman’s favor, though applicable only to the June primary, would – with the state’s off-year elections on the horizon – accelerate the unraveling of a system that has for decades allowed heavy-handed party bosses to dominate the makeup and character of New Jersey politics.

“The fight against the county line and the political machines really goes back to the election of Trump, when it picked up serious speed,” said Rutgers professor Julia Sass Rubin, who testified in Kim’s lawsuit and has conducted extensive research on the line’s outsize influence. “There were a number of grassroots organizations that formed, we saw this nationally, especially started by women.”

But Rubin said it was not until Murphy announced her Senate run, and immediately received broad backing from New Jersey Democratic leaders, that the issue exploded.

“The Tammy Murphy-Andy Kim race has put (the issue) on steroids. It has really amplified general public awareness, which was building. But it was building among the aware, kind of progressive grassroots,” Rubin said. “This brought it into the mainstream in a big way.”

Politico, March 24, 2024

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