Kim, a 41-year-old former U.S. State Department official in the Obama administration, decided to run for Senate after Menendez was indicted — for the second time — in September. Kim was the first public official to call for Menendez’s resignation, saying that New Jersey voters deserve better from their representatives. Menendez has pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges, as well as a new one alleging he secretly acted as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government.
Menendez hasn’t said whether he’ll seek another term next year, though he’s made clear he has no plans to step down. And Kim said Menendez’s insistence that he won’t — saying “I am not going anywhere” — rubbed him the wrong way.
“I felt like he was saying, ‘This is mine. This is my seat,’” Kim said. “We know that, actually, it’s the people’s seat.”
That isn’t quite always the case in New Jersey, and that’s Kim’s challenge. The state’s county chairs hold incredible sway, particularly in primary elections, because they effectively choose who appears preferentially on ballots under “the line,” the slate of candidates endorsed by their political organization. Getting the line usually translates to victory.
And Kim is likely to run in a primary against first lady Tammy Murphy, who has built strong connections to party leaders in no small part thanks to her husband, Gov. Phil Murphy. She is expected to announce her candidacy next week, according to a person familiar with her plans.
Tammy Murphy is also an effective fundraiser who’s spent the last year and a half raising and spending money through a pair of political groups, which also helps her gain support.
Another Democrat, Kyle Jasey, the son of Assemblymember Mila Jasey, is also running for Menendez’s seat.
New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in half a century. But a Trump-connected candidate, Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano-Glassner, is mounting a challenge with the hope that voters will be so repelled by Menendez’s alleged actions that they vote for a different party altogether.
“To those who have rushed to judgement all in the name of political expediency, I’ll gladly put up my record of success on behalf of the people of New Jersey against Andy Kim or anyone else,” Menendez said in a statement. “I’m used to tough fights and next year won’t be any different. I am confident that when all the facts have been presented and my innocence proven, I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done for the past 30-plus years — delivering results for hardworking, New Jersey families and small businesses across the state, fighting for the little guy, and giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Kim says he is undaunted by the hurdles ahead. Speaking to reporters afterward, he noted that he’s raised $20 million in his last three campaigns, a sum much larger than average House members, according to OpenSecrets. And he raised $1 million the first week after he said he’d run and through September had nearly $2.1 million in the bank for his Senate campaign, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
“I’ve shown that I can win tough races. I’m battle tested. I’ve won three of the toughest races in recent history in New Jersey,” Kim told reporters. Voters “don’t need to hear promises,” he added. “They want someone who is a workhorse, not a show horse — someone who’s gonna just get the job done. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
Kim, the father of six- and eight-year-old children, said his decision to run for the Senate seat was one of the hardest of his life. But he said the country is at a “historic moment,” not just because public trust is in decline but also because of overseas conflicts, a looming government shutdown and a general feeling that “the world is just spinning out of control.”
“Now is the time for change,” Kim said. “Now is the time for us to say ‘Enough with our broken politics. We demand it, it is going to be ours for the taking.’”