New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and Rep. Andy Kim are running for Sen. Bob Menendez’s seat.
The Democratic primary is heating up in New Jersey, with two well-known Democratic candidates, that state’s First Lady Tammy Murphy and Rep. Andy Kim, facing primary challenges to longtime Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who is facing indictment and calling for his resignation.
An indictment in late September accused Menendez and his wife of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. The prosecution filed an alternative indictment on October 12, accusing Menendez of conspiring with his wife and businessman Wael Hanna to make the senator work as an agent for Egypt. Menendez has pleaded not guilty.
Menendez has not yet announced whether he will seek re-election, but he denies any wrongdoing and has not indicated any plans to resign from the Senate.
On Wednesday morning, Murphy announced her candidacy for Menendez’s seat. I entered the race With the launch video Which does not refer to Menendez by name, but calls up lawmakers in Washington.
“Right now, Washington is filled with too many people who are more interested in getting rich or getting on camera than they are in getting things done for you,” she said in the video, along with footage of congressional lawmakers, including Menendez. She then spoke about issues that Republican lawmakers oppose, such as abortion access and gun control.
In the video, Murphy highlights her efforts as First Lady to reduce maternal mortality in the Garden State and include climate change education in school curricula.
Murphy previously worked as a banker and financier, and has never held public office. she He told the New Jersey Globe On Wednesday, “I don’t have experience in D.C. — I have experience in New Jersey. And I would just tell you that everything that’s happening in D.C. isn’t working, so maybe more people with D.C. experience isn’t what we need here right now.”
Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told ABC News that Murphy’s lack of political experience is unexpected.
“She’s certainly known for her positive initiatives in the state. She certainly has an important and credible background. But again, she obviously doesn’t have any political experience in terms of being in office, so it depends on how voters interpret that at the moment,” Koning said. .
Rep. Andy Kim, a Democrat who represents New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, launched a Senate bid in September. He was the first major Democratic official in New Jersey to call for Menendez’s resignation after news of the indictment against the senator broke.
Kim A. fired Tuesday video Launching his candidacy for the Senate, emphasizing his experience in enacting laws and how his family motivates him to run. His video, which shows him speaking to focus groups of New Jersey residents, directly addresses Menendez’s indictment.
“For me, working in public service requires the highest standards,” Kim told voters in a campaign video. “After he said he would not resign, that’s when I decided to step up and challenge him.”
In a statement to WABC-TV on Wednesday during his campaign, Kim wrote: “My message of integrity and changing our broken politics resonates across the state.”
Progressive activist Lawrence Hamm is also running in the Democratic primary. he He announced that he was running in September.
“What’s actually going to happen in terms of Kim versus Murphy? I think that’s the question on everyone’s mind right now,” Koning said. She said the upcoming Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows similar favorability ratings for both Kim and Murphy in the state.
“Kim announced first; he likely undoubtedly impressed parts of the Democratic Party within the state. Other than that, his claim to fame is clearly that iconic photo of him cleaning up after January 6.”  In the Capitol. “This is kind of a symbol of how he thinks about his political career,” Koning said.
Murphy has already picked up one major endorsement in the state — over Menendez. The Hudson County Democratic Organization, which represents Menendez’s home district, He endorsed Murphy on Wednesdaywith the group’s president writing that “we are honored to give Tammy Murphy our full and unequivocal support.”
Sources told ABC News that Gov. Phil Murphy privately intervened to get state Democrats to rally around his wife. Tammy Murphy’s Senate campaign declined to comment to ABC News, and Gov. Phil Murphy’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Gov. Murphy may have legal and ethical considerations that affect how he campaigns for his wife, Koning said.
At the same time, “she has been her husband’s right-hand man in many respects, throughout his time as governor… The big question is, will the provincial chiefs fall out of favor with her, especially in the north, where she has greater connections.” What does Andy Kim do?
“It’s actually going to be more difficult to digest, probably, for voters… than it will be for county chairs. We don’t know that yet. Obviously there hasn’t been any polling on that yet. But I don’t know,” Koning told ABC News. “The race will be very interesting, and I think it will be played carefully.”
Menendez issued a statement Wednesday criticizing Tammy Murphy for previously being a registered Republican and for her relationship with the governor. Voted in Republican primaries until 2014, According to the New York Times, which cited voting records. Separately, in September, Gov. Phil Murphy He called for Menendez’s resignation.
“Governor Murphy said he wouldn’t put his wife to the seat, but why would he because there was never a need for it? They think they have to answer to someone…while Tammy Murphy has been a ticket-carrying Republican for years, I’ve been working on Electing Democrats up and down the ballot and fighting in Washington to provide for the hardworking families of New Jersey.”
“From a broad perspective, as far as Menendez is concerned, it’s another nail in the political coffin for him,” Koning said of Murphy’s entry into the race. [that] “These are two well-known political figures in this field.”
If Menendez’s seat becomes vacant before the election in 2024, Governor Murphy would be allowed to appoint someone to fill the seat, who would serve until the next time the seat is up for re-election. Murphy also can, but is not required to, declare a special election for the seat, in which case any appointee would serve only until the winner of that special election is sworn in.
There has been a special election for a Senate seat in New Jersey before. In June 2013, then-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, announced there would be a special election — and then appointed Jeffrey Chiesa to serve until the special election — to fill the seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg after his death. Chiesa decided not to run in the special election.
Koning said Governor Murphy is unlikely to call a special election if Menendez vacates his seat, because the seat is already up for election in 2024, and that Murphy would likely not appoint Tammy Murphy to the seat because of the ethical issues and optics surrounding that type of move.
“It’s a very unprecedented situation now that we have a very popular congressman now running against the first lady, potentially, for this seat. I think for Menendez, that should really encourage him to simply step down and not run for re-election. But we’re going to run for re-election,” he said. Koning: “I don’t know that either. “I think you have your own political characters to play now.”
ABC News Brittany Shepherd, Josh Margolin, Isabella Murray and Aaron Katerski contributed to this report. WABC-TV’s Mark Crudell also contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com