Kim v. Murphy: All Eyes Turn to Bergen County

Bergen County Democratic Committee Chairman Paul Juliano.

If God crammed the universe into 247 square miles, it might look a little like Bergen County, New Jersey. Maybe that’s why the Murphy and Kim campaigns see the place as particularly important – and emblematic – as they tussle for the Democratic nomination to succeed what remains of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.

Those who might gripe that Bergen fails to embody an urban ethos and therefore comes up short in representing anything resembling a totality, might see it possessing so much of everything that it finally it inhabits something close to nothing.

But Kim and Murphy don’t see it that way.

Not now.

To them, the sprawling suburban slice of planet earth, complete with populations ethically and ideologically front-lined on the Middle East catastrophe, living backyard to backyard, firehouse collaborative to firehouse collaborative, might as well be the political equivalent of D-Day.

If Murphy loses Monday night’s convention, slated to take place at an IBEW Hall in Paramus, the loss will likely finish her candidacy, or at least ratchet up the ante on remaining county chairs in the unfolding season to the point of utter exhaustion – and maybe despair.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Sources say Bergen County Democratic Committee Chieftan Paul Juliano continued to feel mounting pressure this week as his establishment county committee allies seek to stop the appearance of considerable Murphy Campaign bleeding by dealing her a Bergen solid.

Of course, it wasn’t all one-way traffic.

Juliano also evidently contributed his own share of pressure to committee members.

Everyone’s jangled.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to the cauldrons of party power up there said she believes Murphy can prevail. But even if it’s 60-40% with Kim on the losing end (in a mammoth, secret ballot convention) after he slammed through Monmouth, Burlington, and Monmouth, it still looks just awful. A second source confirmed expectations of a similar kind of split, with Murphy winning, but no one could confirm the exact number of heads of hair that have turned white in the process.

It boiled down to this terrifying question for Juliano, which would truly test the organization on Monday:

Were the Tammy-committed telling him the truth?

Said a party insider, uncommitted to either side:

“Kim may have just the right momentum at the right time, with the right conversations about him taking place, that he could win Bergen.”

Across the river, to westward, former Sheriff Jerry Speziale was said to be making battle preparations for an off-the-line countywide candidacy in Passaic (where Murphy prevailed – not by county committee secret ballot but by municipal chairs’ hand vote), while Kim conversed – points east – with Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla (running against Menendez’s son, U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez, Jr. in CD-8) and appeared well on his way to establishing a Hudson footprint of rebellious consequence.

More than a handful of grumbly insiders read Kim’s decision to file for emergency injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court in the District of New Jersey to prohibit the use of county-line ballots statewide and “give all voters a fair and legitimate choice in the 2024 primary election through office-block ballots” as a white flag thrown up ahead of Bergen. “Convenient, isn’t it – that now – up against Bergen – Kim wants a prohibition on county-line ballots after he wins the line in three counties,” a source sneered.

Did the congressman know he was going to lose, or rather, that the rules of engagement as propagated by the party organization would not allow him a chance to win?

“New Jersey voters don’t want to be told who to vote for,” said Kim. “Jersey voters are tired of the broken politics that lets party leaders give their hand-picked candidates preferential placement on the ballot. This unfair process needs to end now. The people deserve a ballot like what every other state uses that is fair, democratic, and allows their voices to be the ones that determine who represents them.”

In addition, the most cynical of cynical players remarked on how progressive darling Kim continues to defy the same county organizations that would likewise deny former Senate President Steve Sweeney’s 2025 gubernatorial candidacy.

They read deeply into the following, from Jay Lassiter’s Saturday column:

After speeches, the delegates went to a vote and Senator Troy Singleton had this to say about the notorious ballot design (aka The Line) that almost always determines the outcome of NJ elections before the voters even enter the picture: “As much as I love my county committee members, we should have a process where the people will ultimately decide. We can still have a moniker next to any individual names to show that they are [the county committee’s] preferred candidate and I think that’s the direction we should go.”

Singleton’s no babe in the woods.

He was a rock-ribbed Sweeney ally when Sweeney served as senate prez.

Citing Kim as the 2024 cottontail blazing a trail for none other than the big bad wolf of South Jersey ’25 amounted to maybe the most bitter card the Murphy apologists could play as they tried to cling to their candidate’s chances. As much as they wanted to make that stick – “See what you’re doing, progressives, in your efforts to fight the machines, you’re actually rapidly re-empowering the most dominant party machine of the past two decades” – it fell apart, not only within the folk-rock star atmosphere generated by Kim. It smacked of boogeyman-summoning as a replacement for actually furnishing a ticket – and candidates – truly corresponding with the best ideals of the party, who inspire as opposed to decay or diminish, and make people want to work rather than merely complain about the other side. The Menendez meltdown and the Murphys’ power play to exploit organizations for the sake of their own extended runway just resonated too loudly with people, and it spoke volumes, regardless of who wins Monday, that even dominating party chairs with levers of power connected to homunculi piled up on the public payrolls, couldn’t say for sure how it would go down in a Paramus IBEW Hall.  Indeed, the oscillating energy seemed more electromagnetic than simply suburban.

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10 responses to “Kim v. Murphy: All Eyes Turn to Bergen County”

  1. NJ deserves to have a qualified and experienced Senator in that seat. With his years as an international advisor and as a three term Congressman, Andy Kim will be a Senator that we can be proud of. Andy Kim also has a proven track record as a winner and a fighter. The Bergen delegates will recognize this and vote Andy Kim when they fill out their ballots, no matter what their buttons might say.

  2. I like Gov.Murphy but was surprised that his wife was running for the Senate with no experience. I remember Kim staying and cleaning up the mess that the Trump supporters made on Jan.6,2021. I think he deserves the nomination because he is qualified and has a good record in Congress.

  3. What really concerns me is that Congressman Kim has the experience and support necessary to win the senate seat in November if he is the candidate. It is my belief Ms. Murphy can’t say that and if she is the candidate NJ is going to lose to a Republican. How such a terrible outcome can make sense to Democrats sponsoring this is
    hard to understand !

  4. Congressman Kim lost me at “were a Democracy. ”
    Please educate yourself on our founding documents . The country is and will always be a Constitutional REPUBLIC.

  5. This County Line on Ballots is Undemocratic and UnAmerican. Get rid of this Line for fair voting and so the Best Candidate can win.

  6. Evan North – is that all you got for being against Andy? Because he called America a democracy instead of a constitutional republic? LOL

  7. Ah, I see, Kim benefited for having the party line in three pervious votes, but now in Bergen it isn’t fair. Right. And I laughed aloud at what someone else set about the Senate seat going to a Republican if Murphy gets the nomination. The last time a Republican won a Senate seat in NJ was bach in the 1980s! lol.

  8. Wow, it seems like the upcoming convention in Bergen County is heating up the political scene! 🎉 With Murphy and Kim vying for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator, all eyes are on Bergen. 🗳️ It’s fascinating to see how much importance is being placed on this county and how it could shape the future of the race. 😮 Do you think Kim’s push to change the ballot process will have an impact? And what about the possibility of a Republican winning the Senate seat if Murphy gets the nomination? 🤔 Let’s keep an eye on how this unfolds!

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