Dem Rep Andy Kim takes lead in primary polling to replace scandal-ridden NJ Sen Bob Menendez

Congressman Andy Kim (D) has surpassed First Lady Kim Murphy of New Jersey (D) in the polls by a double-digit margin.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
Democrat Senator Bob Menendez has not yet announced his candidacy for reelection following multiple alleged crime-ridden controversies, and now two candidates are neck-and-neck fighting to replace him in the state's primary election.

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, who is married to Gov. Murphy, was the leading contender to replace Menendez, according to early consensus, however, New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim has recently surpassed Murphy in the polls, Semafor reports.

Rep. Kim is a Democrat who represents South Jersey and Murphy was a former Republican who switched to the Democrat Party in 2014.

Kim believes he has a high chance of winning the primary election and mocked a journalist's question who had referred to him as the "underdog" in the race.

"There was a journalist who asked me: What’s it like to be the underdog in a Senate race?" Kim told donors during a campaign event a few weeks after announcing his candidacy. "I'm like: I’m 23 points up in the polls! In what other state is someone who’s 23 points up considered to be the underdog?"

Senator Menendez, who polls in the low single digits and has until March 25 to decide whether to run again, presents no significant threat to Kim, the first Democrat to declare his candidacy following Menendez's indictment on October 13. Kim's main opponent in the June 5 primary is First Lady Tammy Murphy. Murphy, who had never run for office before, entered the election with a large network of endorsements.

Semafor reports that Murphy was the frontrunner in the primary election. She started the race six weeks after Kim and raised $3.2 million compared  Kim's to $2.8 million in the first fundraising quarter. Murphy also received endorsements from nine of the state's 21 Democratic Party chairs.

In New Jersey, election ballots have something called "the line" where Party-endorsed candidates are featured on the line, while unendorsed candidates are thrown to the side of the ballot. However, Kim does not feel threatened due to his double-digit lead in the polls over Murphy.

"I’ll be honest with you — my stock amongst independents and even Republicans in the state is through the roof,” Kim said at another campaign event, according to Semafor. "Never again will the Republicans ever be able to say I’m just some ‘yes man’ for my party, when I'm literally running against the senior senator and the governor’s wife."

Kim, a former diplomat who flipped a swing seat in 2018, received endorsements from Democrat Senators due this difference. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) said he would be endorsing Kim because he is not a "nepo candidate" unlike Murphy. Fetterman has also been outspoken about holding Sen. Menendez accountable for taking alleged foreign bribes.

It's unclear if Sen. Menendez (D) will seek reelection after receiving multiple federal indictments. Menendez has been accused of accepting illegal briberies from the nation of Qatar in January. He allegedly accepted gifts in exchange for vocalizing praise for the Qatari government.

The allegations came after Menendez, who resigned as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was federally indicted in September on allegations that he had been acting as an illegal agent for the nation of Egypt. The Justice Department claims Menendez used his power and influence as a senator to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes to benefit the Egyptian government.

Rep. Kim is now vying for endorsements from the state's Democratic chairmen in order to secure the coveted party line on the ballot which would enhance his chances of defeating Murphy in the primary.
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