On the Friday that news of Bob Menendez’s jam up hit the fan, the county party chairs called the governor’s office.
They had a simple proposition: We need some kind of statement here.
We’re getting killed.
The front office didn’t exactly want to lay its neck on the chopping block.
Ok, guys, we’re with you.
Do what you need to do.
We need the governor to lead, and we’ll follow.
Mild pushing and shoving followed.
Finally, the governor agreed to show up at a convo in Newark.
Not a surrogate.
That was one of the demands of the chairs.
They needed Phil Murphy to be there.
They hammered out a plan. The putrid depth of the indictment against Menendez made anything short of the eject button impossible.
Push it, Phil, and we’ll back you.
Murphy – his back covered by the chairs – hit the go button.
The key chairs dominoed.
Menendez needs to go, they collectively said.
Even though Menendez continues to hang on, they felt pretty good about it behind the scenes.
The GOP never really expressed moral outrage or amplified howls for Menendez to go. After all, they essentially live in harness to a presidential candidate who’s also under indictment.
Republicans treaded with very soft moccasins through the political minefield.
Failing to take a stand, they could always justify it by claiming shrewdness. “Keep the guy around, to staunch the bleeding caused by the Trump problem.”
Amid the backroom angst on that infamous Friday, U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3) beat the establishment to the punch by issuing his own statement calling on Menendez to resign.
“Why the f-ck would he do that?” some bewildered Murphy ally wondered.
Well, anyway, they’d have the last laugh, or so they figured.
First Lady Tammy Murphy (pictured, top left) would run for the senate seat.
Murphy wouldn’t appoint her.
That would look bad.
Some distinguished old judge would assume the seat as soon as Menendez reigns, a source told InsiderNJ.
But Tammy Murphy – short of U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11) running (they’re friends) – would run for the seat.
That would put her on a collision course with Kim, who announced his own statewide designs a day after he condemned Menendez.
She’ll crush Andy, a source cackled.
InsiderNJ asked Burlington – is Kim on a suicide mission?
He doesn’t think so.
D.C. likes him.
InsiderNJ probed further.
Well, it’s not D.C. so much as a group of gung-ho Obama guys still politically active.
Kim v. Tammy Murphy.
Murphy would have the bulk of critical county party chairs’ support.
The governorship too powerful in New Jersey.
If a chair bucked Tammy, he or she would fear repercussions come budget time.
Better to back the first lady rather than risk a suddenly score-keeping Phil Murphy.
Hell hath no wrath like a NJ governor scorned.
“He’s learning,” a New Jersey insider offered. “Where’s Murphy from? Massachusetts? He finally got it that in New Jersey, it’s about family.”
Not at home necessarily, but in public office – absolutely.
If Tammy Murphy does go for senate, and runs in next year’s Democratic Primary, the move might stymie Sherrill’s 2025 shot at governor, or so noted a party source.
Best case scenario for Murphy and Sherrill?
The party misogynists say, “Ok, we got Tammy Murphy in there, time to go in another direction.”
Sherrill and U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) have already been quietly contesting a North Jersey cold war on statewide options.
Gottheimer, senate; Sherrill, governor.
Sherrill, senate; Gottheimer, governor.
Tammy Murphy v. Kim runs the risk of complicating that dynamic, even as Menendez stayed planted, and the GOP sweatily approved, as another Menendez bombshell landed.