Tammy Murphy, first lady of New Jersey, enters a crowded race for Menendez’s seat | ET REALITY


Tammy Murphy, wife of Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, announced Wednesday that she would run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat now held by the state’s embattled Sen. Robert Menendez, who has been accused of accepting bribes. . .

Ms. Murphy, 58, is a first-time candidate for public office and describes herself on tax forms as a homemaker.

During her husband’s six years as governor, she has been an active first lady who has worked to improve the state’s high maternal and infant mortality rates and expand climate change instruction in public schools. Before she and Murphy married 30 years ago, Ms. Murphy worked as a financial analyst and since then she has volunteered on philanthropic and nonprofit boards.

Ms. Murphy has been preparing for more than a month to run for the Senate and announced her candidacy on Wednesday with the release of a nearly four-minute briefing. video.

“We owe it to our children to do better,” she says, speaking directly to the camera and introducing herself primarily as a mother of four who, when given the opportunity, used her platform as first lady to advocate for better pregnancy outcomes.

“Right now, Washington is full of too many people more interested in getting rich or appearing on camera,” he says as a photo of Mr. Menendez appears in the background, “than in getting things done for you.”

Ms. Murphy already has at least two Democratic primary opponents: Rep. Andy Kim, who has represented South Jersey in Congress since 2019, and Larry Hamm, a political activist and second-time Senate candidate leading the Popular Organization for Progress. Patricia Campos-Medina, a left-wing union leader who heads the Cornell University Worker Institute, said Tuesday that she, too, was preparing to enter the race.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of bribery and conspiracy to be an agent of Egypt, and has said he will not resign from the Senate. He has not ruled out seeking re-election, but if he runs for the Democratic nomination, he will face several practical challenges. A federal judge scheduled his trial to begin a month before the June primary, and nearly all of the state’s top Democrats, including Murphy, abandoned him, leaving him an extremely difficult path to victory.

Menendez said Murphy’s entry into the race showed that the governor, who was one of the first officials to call for his resignation, had a “personal and vested interest” in doing so.

“They believe they don’t have to answer to anyone,” Menendez said of the Murphys in a written statement. “But I am confident that the people of New Jersey will reject this blatant disenfranchisement move.”

Murphy, in Wednesday’s video, called her role as first lady of New Jersey the “honor of my life.” She has also earned a reputation for aggressive campaign fundraising and now she has seven months to present herself to voters as a candidate in her own right.

She’s running as a Democrat for one of the country’s most coveted political awards, but she’s a relative newcomer to the party. Voting records show she regularly voted in Republican primaries until 2014, three years before her husband was elected governor of a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly a million voters. Ms. Murphy continued to vote in Republican primaries even while she served as finance chair of the Democratic National Committee and as ambassador to Germany, appointed by former President Barack Obama.

She declined an interview request and her aides declined to discuss her reasons for switching parties at 49.

But Kim said Murphy’s voting record raised valid questions, particularly in a Democratic primary.

“I think she needs to explain that,” Kim, 41, said Monday in an interview.

Menéndez also criticized the first lady’s change of party affiliation.

“While Tammy Murphy was a credentialed Republican for years,” he said, “I was working to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Kim, a national security adviser during the Obama administration, entered the Senate race a day after Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for the efforts of the senator to direct aid. and weapons to Egypt and help its allies avoid criminal proceedings.

Mr. Kim also posted a campaign video this week, in which he is shown speaking to a group of disenchanted voters.

“I think the opposite of democracy is apathy,” said Kim, a father of 6- and 8-year-old children, to explain his motivation for running.

“I see all the craziness in the world,” he said, adding, “I don’t want my kids to grow up in a broken America.”

Mr. Kim, who gained national prominence after being photographed clearing debris from the Capitol floor after the Jan. 6 attack, raised nearly $1 million in a single week after announcing his candidacy, and said he was continuing to raise money at a good clip. To win, he will most likely need to capture voters’ imaginations without significant help from New Jersey Democratic Party leaders, who control the so-called county line, a placement of ballots often considered equivalent to victory.

New Jersey has a unique electoral system that allows county leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties to anoint candidates to run in a single column or row on primary ballots, an advantage that studies have shown increases their likelihood of victory by up to 38 percentage points. .

“It’s a rigged game,” said Julia Sass Rubin, associate dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy at Rutgers University, who has investigated the influence of the county line in federal and legislative elections. “There is no democracy in New Jersey.”

The New Jersey Working Families Alliance and several former candidates have filed a federal lawsuit that they hope will lead a court to overturn the practice. “The election is almost over before it starts,” Brett Pugach, an attorney who filed the federal lawsuit, said of the voting system, which he believes is fundamentally unconstitutional.

But in the meantime, the governor and Murphy have been busy courting Democratic leaders in the state’s densely populated counties closest to New York City and Philadelphia, according to three people familiar with the conversations who did not want to be identified and would say anything. that could be considered critical of the governor. Several of those presidents work as lobbyists with major deals before the state or hold lucrative state jobs, limiting the likelihood that they will openly oppose a governor who has two years left in office and control over the next two multibillion-dollar state budgets.

That’s one of the reasons Campos-Medina, who emigrated from El Salvador when he was 14, said he planned to run.

“The line disenfranchises women and, in particular, women of color and does not encourage voter participation,” said Campos-Medina, 50.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face a Republican next November who hopes to break the Democrats’ four-decade winning streak in the Senate. There are at least two Republicans interested in running for the nomination: Cristina Serrano Glassnerthe mayor of Mendham Borough, and Shirley Maia-Cusickmember of Hunterdon County Federated Republican Women.

If one of the women is successful, she would make history as the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey.

Ms. Murphy would also be the first wife of a sitting governor elected to the United States Senate. And he’s also likely to become the fifth member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation with family members who have held prominent political positions, joining Reps. Tom Kean Jr., Rob Menendez Jr., Donald Norcross and Donald M. Payne Jr. ., all of whom are Democrats.

Ross K. Baker, a Rutgers University professor who has studied Congress for 50 years, said New Jersey’s county boundary system contributed to what he called “political dynasties.”

“It is fundamentally undemocratic,” Professor Baker said. “Politics should not be a family business.”

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