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After a poll last week found that Rep. Andy Kim commanded a 12-point lead over first lady Tammy Murphy among Democratic primary voters in the race for a chance to run for U.S. Senate, events like a candidate forum held Saturday at Monmouth University will likely play a role in swaying undecided New Jersey Democrats.
Both Kim and Murphy, as well as Patricia Campos-Medina, were on hand at the event, which was sponsored by the Monmouth University Democrats and the Monmouth County Democratic Party, to give about 100 voters their best pitches on why they should win this spring’s Democratic Senate primary.
The seat currently held by Sen. Bob Menendez is vulnerable for the first time in years because of the multiple federal indictments that New Jersey's senior senator faces.
Kim announced his candidacy just 24 hours after news of the indictment broke last September. Murphy launched her campaign in November, and Campos-Medina launched in January.
Each candidate spent about half an hour on stage, and they did not appear together at all. A handful of elected officials were acknowledged after Kim spoke, as Murphy took the stage.
Rep. Andy Kim
Kim’s opening remarks focused on the American dream, which he said his parents realized when they came to the United States half a century ago to provide a better life for him and his sister. He talked about dedicating his life to public service, and about his work on national security during the Obama administration and as a member of Congress.
As the moderators asked their predetermined questions, Kim was ready to explain why he’s running —because he thinks the state deserves someone who is ready on day one and that he has experience in a tough election — and that his priorities include affordability, women’s reproductive health care rights and climate change policy.
“I’m a Democrat in a district that Trump won twice, and I voted to impeach him twice,” Kim said. “I hope that people see in me that kind of next-generation of leader that we need so badly right now. I think there’s so much hunger right now to see new blood, to see fresh faces, have fresh voices in our politics, and I hope that I can bring that for New Jersey and for the country.”
When it comes to party building, Kim said, Democrats have to win to be able to continue to revitalize the reputation of their party, and that means they must attract new, younger and more diverse voters.
“You cannot trust someone or something unless you respect that person or that thing,” he said. “On the heels of indictment of the senator, the Democratic Party has to really confront our reputation around the state and the issues, and independent voters are watching this very closely. … The Republicans have no ability to attack me credibly as some yes man to the party when I’m literally running against the senior senator from my party as well as the governor’s family.”
Kim was eager to note that he is in favor of reforming the Senate filibuster. He said a majority is not enough because it needs to be the “right kind of majority,” with members willing to do work on real reform.
As his time wound down, Kim talked about working with the late Rep. John Lewis and how historic moments are shaped by those who step up, and that he’s “stepping up now.”
“I’m a father terrified about what kind of world my kids are growing up in,” Kim said. “I don’t want this craziness to be the new normal that they have to grow up in. I refuse to believe that my kids are doomed to grow up in a broken America.”
As Kim left the stage, more than half the audience gave him a standing ovation.
First lady Tammy Murphy
During her opening remarks, the first lady talked about being a mother and some of the work she would want to do, including reimplementing the SALT tax exemption.
Murphy mentioned the work being done in New Jersey to address climate change, maternal health and gun control and said faith leaders had spoken to her about how they wished they had someone like her in Washington to help.
“I did a lot of soul-searching, and I realized I know how to get stuff done," Murphy said. "That is what I do.”
As far as what her priorities are, Murphy talked about affordability and the need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact that climate change will have on the state.
In terms of party building, Murphy said she believes in getting out into communities, knocking on doors and working up and down the ballot. She said that “going forward I would make 1,000% certain” to coordinate with everyone to make sure people are elected up and down the ballot and that she will be “dedicated to going to Congressman Kim’s district and making sure that we are dedicating all the resources necessary to be certain that that district does not flip and become red down the road.”
Murphy also said there were many things that could be done to help provide affordable housing, such as repurposing shopping malls and office campuses that have deteriorated and fallen into disrepair, as well as moving “housing closer to our train stations and our hubs so that we have more access via walking.”
In the end, Murphy said, all of her priorities and concerns come back to health care, an issue she said is a top priority for her campaign.
Campos-Medina was also in attendance Saturday and discussed coming to New Jersey and her life as an immigrant, including the struggles she has faced.
Former Newark Board of Education member Lawrence Hamm is also running but was not at Saturday’s event. Menendez has not announced whether he intends to seek reelection.
Katie Sobko covers the New Jersey Statehouse. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ Senate primary: Andy Kim, Tammy Murphy make their cases