Tammy Murphy, the first lady of New Jersey, announced Wednesday that she is running against indicted Sen. Bob Menendez in the 2024 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Menendez was indicted earlier this fall on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, extortion and conspiracy to act as a foreign agent for Egypt.
She hasn’t held elected office before, but that’s not stopping her from instantly becoming the front-runner in the state’s Senate race, reports Politico. As first lady, she has taken an active role in the state, with a private office down the hall from the governor’s office. She has been a prolific fundraiser for Democratic Party leaders across the state over the last six years and is well known across the state.
In her time as first lady, Murphy has focused on lowering maternal mortality in New Jersey. Her campaign announcement video noted that New Jersey’s national ranking for maternal deaths moved from 47th to 27th during her “Nurture NJ” initiative. She also worked “to make New Jersey the first and only state in the nation to incorporate climate change education in the K-12 curriculum,” she says in her video.
Last year, when her husband, Gov. Phil Murphy, was the chair of the National Governors Association, they came to Utah for NGA meetings. Tammy Murphy met with first lady Abby Cox and both went to Sacred Circle Healthcare Center in downtown Salt Lake City to listen as providers discussed barriers they faced every day as they worked to provide maternal and infant care.
Murphy told the Deseret News after the Sacred Circle visit that the U.S. was “not where it needs to be in terms of maternal and infant health. We are 55th in the world in terms of maternal mortality rates.”
After detailing her work on reducing maternal mortality in New Jersey, Murphy says that she is “proud of everything we’ve accomplished — but I know there’s a lot more to do,” as she announces her run for Senate. While not naming Menendez in her campaign video, she did say that New Jersey’s families “deserve better” and included his photo as she said, “Right now, Washington is filled with too many people more interested in getting rich or getting on camera than getting things done for you.”
Murphy is not the only candidate running to replace Menendez. New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim announced that he was running for the Senate the day after the latest corruption charges against Menendez were released. Larry Hamm, a political activist, and Patricia Campos-Medina, a labor leader, are also planning on running.
Menendez issued a “scathing statement” in response to Murphy’s announcement, reports CNN. He accused Gov. Murphy of using his office to “clear the way” for his wife’s candidacy. “When Phil Murphy rushed to judgment and called on me to resign, it was clear he had a personal, vested interest in doing so at the expense of core democratic principles — the presumption of innocence and due process,” Menendez said.
Menendez has not announced that he is running for reelection in 2024, but has teased it, saying last Friday that he was “used to tough fights and next year won’t be any different,” reports Politico. He has rejected calls to resign from other Democratic officials, including Gov. Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker. His approval rating has cratered to just 8% among New Jersey residents.
Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy.