As Tammy Murphy exits N.J.’s U.S. Senate race, Andy Kim is the Democratic candidate to beat

Two other candidates remain in the race: Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, a labor leader, and Lawrence Hamm, an activist based in Newark.

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New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy

FILE - New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy speaks to delegates in Paramus, N.J., Monday, March 4, 2024. Murphy has suspended her U.S. Senate campaign to replace Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., as he faces federal corruption charges. Murphy announced her decision in a video posted to her social media on Sunday, March 24. Her decision to drop out likely clears the way for U.S. Rep. Andy Kim in the Democratic primary on June 4. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim is now the person to beat in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate after first lady Tammy Murphy suspended her campaign Sunday.

The suspension is due to a number of events happening around the same time, according to analysts.

“There’s never one straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said Dr. Ben Dworkin, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University, adding there were a number of setbacks for the Murphy campaign that took place in the last week.

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Last Sunday, Attorney General Matt Platkin told a federal judge that he believed the controversial primary ballot design, known as “the line,” was unconstitutional and decided not to defend it. Her campaign was based around “the idea of inevitability,” with the support she has gained from county Democratic chairs.

Then on the next day, Jersey City Mayor and 2025 gubernatorial candidate Steven Fulop shifted his support from Murphy to Kim. The change came just after Kim and Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, a fellow Senate candidate, were denied entry to the Camden County Democratic convention.

Fulop was critical of Murphy for not saying anything about the incident. Murphy deferred comment to Camden County Democrats about the fracas.

On the same day, the judge in the lawsuit to do away with the line, filed by Kim, sounded skeptical of arguments from attorneys for the defendants.

The bottom line, according to Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, is that Murphy started to contemplate the idea that she would ultimately lose.

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“I don’t think it ever occurred to her when she got into the race that it was going to be competitive, that it was going to be as hard as it was, and that she might not come out on top,” he said.

In her video posted Sunday, Murphy said she suspended her campaign because she didn’t want to “waste resources tearing down a fellow Democrat.”

“New Jersey’s next senator must focus on the issues of our time and not be mired in tearing others down while dividing the people of our party and state,” she said.

Both analysts agree that Murphy did not see any value in going negative.

“[We’re talking] really harsh negative ads on Philadelphia network TV and New York network TV,” said Dworkin. “I’m just not that sure that Tammy Murphy clearly saw that as worth it… which would be taking it obviously to the next level from the little skirmishes we saw through the campaign to date.”

Rasmussen offered that Murphy “didn’t want to have to get nasty.”

“She could not be assured, even after putting the money in going negative, that she was going to come out on top,” he said.

With Murphy out of the race and incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez opting to not run in the primary, Kim is now the leading candidate to win the Democratic primary. Two other candidates remain in the race: Campos-Medina, a labor leader, and Lawrence Hamm, an activist based in Newark.

Kim asked supporters to recognize Murphy’s “continued service to our state and country.” His lawsuit to end the county line system will continue, according to a member of Kim’s legal team.

On the Republican side, several candidates are running for the nomination, including Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner and South Jersey businessman Curtis Bashaw. Former TV news reporter Alex Zdan withdrew from the race Monday.

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