The Pushback Against Murphy Broke the Line

The judge knew what he was doing.

Zahid Quraishi put it this way:

“As a final note, the court wishes to make clear that it recognizes the magnitude of its decision. The integrity of the democratic process for a primary election is at stake and the remedy plaintiffs are seeking is extraordinary.”

Indeed.

The “magnitude of the decision” very simply referred to what will no longer be “business as usual” in New Jersey.

No longer will county political leaders decide who wins primaries by awarding the “county line,” or preferential ballot position.

That’s assuming the judge’s decision today, which only grants a temporary injunction against the traditional process, becomes permanent and is upheld on appeal.

All that has to play out, but as of today, Friday, the applecart has been overturned.

And for Andy Kim, it’s his second win in five days. Just last Sunday, Tammy Murphy gave up her U.S. Senate campaign, making now-Rep. Kim the party’s likely standard bearer to replace Bob Menendez.

Kim, ironically, would now stand to get many of the “county lines,” but that system will no longer exist.

After Murphy dropped out, Kim, admittedly, was in an odd position, but he pushed forward with the suit he filed in late February.

The ultimate upshot really does sound like democracy is supposed to work.

If five Democrats, or five Republicans, are seeking a gubernatorial nomination, draw the names and list them in the same column on the primary ballot.

As the judge noted in his opinion, ballots are constructed this way for some municipal and school board elections.

And as he also said at the March 18 hearing, what’s to stop a county organization from endorsing a candidate? Instead of manipulating the ballot, it would be as simple as campaigning for voters to elect “whomever” in Column 3.

Supporters of the status quo really were on shaking ground. No other state in the union has constructed ballots the way New Jersey has, and do people really think that makes the Garden State look good?

Defendants, who included most of the county clerks, argued that they would not have enough time to alter the customary ballot design.

Quraishi easily dismissed that:

“The problem with defendants’ position is that this case is not last-minute,” he wrote. “It was filed 100 days before the primary election on June 4th, and well over a month before the April 5th deadline for preparing official primary election ballots for printing.”

In summary, the judge said the plaintiffs have put forth “credible evidence” that the present ballot design violates the rights of some candidates.

Now it’s time to step back and view the state’s political landscape.

When 2024 began, county leaders were getting prepared to award “lines” for all sorts of offices and First Lady Murphy was presumed to be on her way to the U.S. Senate.

Now all that is changed. Some of the party pros may be unhappy, but average folk who care about this stuff have reason to celebrate.

“This is big, I’m proud to have played a role in doing this,” Kim said during a hastily called press conference over zoom Friday afternoon.

He was asked if he gave any credit to the Murphys for prompting the suit that led to Friday’s ruling.

The question was a bit tongue in cheek and Kim seemed a bit unclear how to respond.

“A lot of circumstances are here,” he said. “This race has unfolded in a lot of twists and turns.”

More broadly, Kim said he has always run as a “reformer,” and that today’s ruling shows how powerful that movement is.

All, however, is not rosy.

Kim said he expected some county leaders to try to circumvent the impact of the ruling.

He said that would be a mistake, because whether they like it or not, Jersey politics is not going to be the same.

“Things are moving forward. Jersey politics is changing and there’s nothing they can do to hold it back.”

The beginning of the end: InsiderNJ Columnist Fred Snowflack’s classic photo from Murphy’s first stunning train wreck of the season: losing her home county of Monmouth and thereby giving Kim the early momentum.

 

 

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