Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Democrats are campaigning on protecting democracy. In N.J., what that means is complicated.

By 37ci3 Mar22,2024



TRENTON, NJ – On Sunday evening, Democratic Rep. Andy Kim scored a decisive victory at the Atlantic County Democratic Committee convention, giving him a dominant position on the county ballot in the June 4 Senate primary.

The next day, Kim took the witness stand in federal court and fought against the ballot position.

“This is about what kind of democracy we want in New Jersey,” Kim told NBC News after testifying Monday.

It’s a broad statement about an esoteric local political custom — one that has become one of the defining issues in a Senate primary with several major ideological divisions.

Last month, Kim sued to overturn the unique ballot design, in which party-endorsed candidates appear in parentheses in one column of the primary ballot and unendorsed candidates appear on the side. Instead, Kim wants to group candidates by office, arguing that county lines are unconstitutional because they unfairly favor party-backed candidates over outsiders.

In some provinces, the party chairman is the sole arbiter of approval. Several of those seats endorsed New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy days after she launched her Senate campaign in November. causes criticism they were trying to curry favor with Governor Phil Murphy, the state’s top Democrat. Parties in other states, such as Atlantic, make endorsements by convention vote.

The clash over county lines, used in all but two of the state’s 21 counties, comes as Democrats across the country campaign to preserve democracy. But some Democrats say the message is more complex in New Jersey, where party leaders still wield significant power.

“New Jersey is nicknamed the Soprano State, and for good reason,” he said. Democrat Sue Altman, who heads the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and is running for Congress in the 7th District, has clashed with the party’s power brokers.

“If we can stand up and stand up proudly and say, ‘Yes, Democrats at every level are the party of democracy, and we can have the receipts to back it up, that would make the campaign easier and simpler,'” Altman added. “But it’s hard to do in New Jersey right now.”

Kim said tapping into the party machine is critical for Democrats trying to hold on to Sen. Bob Menendez’s seat. Menendez, Kim was charged with bribery in Septemberannounced Thursday that he might run as independent if acquitted.

“Right now, independent voters are very wary of the Democratic Party in New Jersey after this accusation by Senator Menendez,” Kim said in an interview at the Atlantic District convention on Sunday.

“If the same political machine that has protected mine for so long is trying to shape these Senate primaries, independent voters will not stand for it,” Kim said later.

Process, policy and campaign

Tammy Murphy is trying to focus on politics.

“We all play by the same rules. So if the rules get better, if they can reform and make things better, I’m all for it,” Murphy told NBC News after meeting with union members in Mays Landing on Sunday, where she noted her work as first lady on issues. minimum such as increasing wages and improving the health of babies and mothers.

“But that’s my point — it’s here,” Murphy added. “I try to help at an affordable price. I am trying to promote reproductive freedoms. I’m trying to help with gun safety and climate change. I think people think about it every day. That’s why I’m tired of hearing about the process.”

Still, some New Jersey politicians said questions about the process have exhausted the race.

“Even the county line dynamics that we’re talking about now have overshadowed the foundation of any campaign,” state Democratic Party Chairman LeRoy Jones Jr. said in a telephone interview.

Jones, who also chairs the Essex County Democratic Committee, is among the leaders supporting Murphy. Jones has the sole authority to decide which candidate is on the ballot in Essex, but he said he vetted about two dozen mayors in his county before endorsing the first lady.

A number of county chairmen who ultimately supported Murphy did not return phone calls, Kim said. After Murphy started running, Kim faced pressure to drop out.

“I don’t want to get into specific names, but a lot of people have told me they think my chances are zero,” Kim said on Sunday. Kim told one of them, “I don’t think I can look my two kids in the eye if I get out of this race because someone who has more connections than me jumps in, but someone thinks I have more. more than experience.”

Pressures in the convention process

Kim isn’t the only one facing pressure to fall in line.

Sadaf Jaffer, a former councilwoman and mayor of Montgomery Township, said she was pressured not to nominate Democrat Patricia Campos-Medina for Senate at her party’s convention in Somerset County, where Chairwoman Peg Schafer endorsed Murphy.

Jaffer said in a phone interview that someone from the county party “took me aside and said, ‘Don’t jeopardize your future. Don’t do anything to jeopardize your future.’” Jaffer declined to name the person, but said it was not Schaffer. Murphy Won Somerset County approvalit was decided by a show of hands of the people.

So was Campos-Medina Physically barred from entering the Camden County Democratic convention on Saturday, where Murphy received confirmation. Kim said that requests to participate in the meeting were rejected.

“It goes against our message of protecting democracy,” Kim said at the Atlantic convention on Sunday.

“You’ll have to talk to Camden,” Murphy told reporters when asked about Saturday’s meeting at the convention. “I think we all play by the same rules in counties.”

According to these rules, some candidates may be better than others in the primary election research Rutgers University professor Julia Rubin testified as an expert witness in Kim’s lawsuit on Monday.

Rubin said in a recent telephone interview that absentee candidates “look illegal” when not grouped with other candidates. “They are voting in Siberia.”

The 2018 Camden County primary ballot shows how the line could favor the favorites, with Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross’s challenger pushed to the far right of the ballot after vacancies.

Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, doubted Kim would face a significant deficit over the county line system.

“If [Kim’s supporters] They have to bring a magnifying glass to find it on the ballot, they will find it,” said Rasmussen.

While the county endorsement process is almost complete, the primary race is still heating up. Although Murphy has only recently started, no other candidate has ever spent much television commercial focused on gun violence.

Murphy is ready for the county’s approval process to end. He turned his attention to other issues Sunday afternoon as he met with several members of Unite Here Local 54, which represents hospitality workers, behind the Mays Landing bar.

Aura Sprague, a 54-year-old union leader and former homeowner from Harbor Township, said she plans to support Murphy in the primary.

“It’s not what he says, it’s what he does,” Sprague said. “I mean, he’s a person who is a direct friend of our union members, and he’s been there for us over the years.”

But Kim’s supporters believe he is more qualified to serve in the Senate, citing his three terms in Congress and his work as a foreign affairs officer at the State Department.

“He’s a dedicated public servant,” said Christi Davis, a retired environmental engineer from Woodbury Heights, standing outside the courthouse on a chilly Monday morning with other activists chanting, in part, “Cancel the line.”

Davis said he became involved in the anti-line movement when he saw several powerful county chairmen supporting Murphy.

“It’s very clearly rigged,” he said.





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