The Best of All Possible Andy Kims

“In this country,” Voltaire wrote in the late 1750s referring to Great Britain, “it is good to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.” Voltaire was writing in reference to British Admiral John Byng, who was, by all accounts, unfairly executed in 1757 on the deck of his ship. His crime, the Admiralty judged, was his failure to capture the Spanish island of Minorca during the Seven Years War the year prior. In Byng’s judgment, after assessing the situation, he deemed the mission was impossible and he abandoned the operation rather than risk certain destruction of British ships and lives. Called a coward, one who shirked his duty, the court martial had his own marines gunned him down.

British naval officers thereafter were known for being especially ferocious. The name of Byng was forgotten while Admiral Lord Nelson, killed in action at Trafalgar, were immortalized. London mastered the seas in the 18th and 19th Centuries, ensuring that Britannia did, in fact, rule the waves. For any man to do any less brought the risk of staring into the barrels of their own muskets, regardless of rank and station. Two-and-three-quarters centuries later, the New Jersey Democratic Party bosses might be thinking upon Voltaire’s famous phrase, or at least the spirit of its intent, as they grind their teeth while slow-clapping Congressman Andy Kim’s campaign against Republican Curtis Bashaw.

When Congressman Andy Kim secured the nomination for his party’s US Senate candidacy, he did so by riding on a wave of popular—not apparatus—support. Kim had not followed the usual and practical route of seeking to obtain the blessings of the various party leaders around the state before launching his own campaign immediately after incumbent US Senator Bob Menendez found himself hooked on federal charges—again. Kim’s failure to court favor with the party leaders earned the offended lever-pullers. The cardinal sin, however, was Kim’s joining a court challenge to the party line itself. The party line in the Democratic Party is no more, following a judge’s decision, and in so doing, Kim poured salt into the wounds of the Democratic bosses. He helped deprive the party organizations of their strongest and most effective tool—an endorsement with favorable ballot positioning.

The Democratic Party pushed back, arguing that the line was a form of their right to collective expression and political association, but District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi was not sold. After all, no other state in the union had this particular ballot arrangement. County clerks argued that they would not have time to prepare new ballots if the judge ruled against the status quo. Quraishi ruled anyway and the county clerks nevertheless managed to bring their new ballots into compliance in time for the June Primary.

Kim did not kiss the ring. Kim then took the party machine’s prized carrot for their endorsed candidates. Prior to this coup, Kim effectively defeated First Lady Tammy Murphy, the establishment choice who critics immediately framed as a brazen golden calf of nepotism. Murphy, who has not held public office before, ran a well-funded campaign, but could not get sufficient traction with the rank-and-file. She bowed out of the race ahead of the court ruling which would have been a blow to her candidacy, leaving Kim as the lead choice, confirmed in the Democratic primary with the congressman’s victory over Patricia Campos-Medina and Larry Hamm. The people’s choice notwithstanding, it would be hard to imagine that Kim’s mortal sins would be forgiven by the Democratic party apparatus and serious consequences could await Kim on the campaign trail as he marches toward the November 5 General Election.

Here is where Kim may find himself in some trouble. Republican Curtis Bashaw handily crushed Trump-endorsed Christine Serrano-Glassner and took the party’s nomination. Bashaw, a businessman and hotelier from South Jersey, was “smeared” by the MAGA-right as being a Christie candidate. Former Governor Chris Christie has been highly critical of former President Donald Trump, and Trump and his followers have, in turn, derided the former governor on everything from his record to his physical appearance. Tying Bashaw to Christie, however, did not have the effect Serrano-Glassner’s campaign was hoping for, and the coveted blessing of Donald Trump likewise failed to deliver a victory at the polls. Bashaw is also openly gay, neutralizing Democratic ammunition that the GOP opponent would be, in principle, a threat to LGBT rights, a demographic which has typically been a safe Democratic voter base, especially since former President Obama was able to deliver on federal recognition of gay marriage and the homo- and- trans-phobic rhetoric surrounding the Trump campaign.

The fact is, electability is a real concern in the NJ GOP and hardliner Republicans generally do not fare well in the Garden State. Former assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who came within a hair’s width of defeating Governor Phil Murphy in the previous gubernatorial election, managed to do so with the Democrats having almost one million more registered voters than Republicans. Although Ciattarelli endorsed Trump since he secured the nomination, after calling him “unfit” in 2015, Ciattarelli is not seen as a MAGA torch-bearer. Indeed, he defeated MAGA candidates Phil Rizzo and Hirsch Singh.

Neither of those candidates would’ve had a remote chance at dislodging Phil Murphy. Ciattarelli did. Other Republican candidates are State Senator Jon Bramnick—no great fan of Trump; Robert Canfield; and former State Senator Ed Durr, the one-term blue-collar trucker who overthrew Senate President Steve Sweeney, who appears to be the more right-wing of the line-up so far.

Canfield needs to work hard on fostering name-recognition. In this regard, Ciattarelli as a former candidate who never really stopped campaigning after his 2021 loss, has the advantage. But Bramnick is another powerful and recognized player in the state, generally well regarded for his agreeable personality and ability to work across the aisle.

In any event, a line-up of moderate Republicans in positions of leadership in New Jersey might be palatable for the Democratic establishment, willing to set Kim up to fail as retribution. The areas where state, county, and municipal leaders would find the most advantage is in having their allies in the courts and in Drumthwacket. The US Senate does not appear to hold significant interest for the party apparatus, as there are significant limits on patronage opportunities to reward loyal party members and allies regarding to positions closer to home, via the most powerful state executive in the country.

In short, it is possible and–unless he can earnestly build cordial relationships with the key players at home–likely that the Democratic Party would be willing to sit on its hands as Kim battles Bashaw leading up to November. To “encourage the others,” as it were, the NJ Democratic Party, miffed by the middle-class Xennial Congressman from South Jersey, may content itself with a non-MAGA Republican breaking their 51-year hold on the US Senate, if only to send a message that they are not to be disrespected to future candidates who would overturn the party apple cart. Barring some masterful charm campaign behind-the-scenes, six years in the Washington DC, without heartfelt party support at home, could consign Kim’s Senate career to a single term with few tears shed by the apparently sleighted county chairs. Bashaw could certainly be a partner the Democratic Party could play ball with, and if the GOP captures the governorship, a Ciattarelli or Bramnick in Trenton would ensure a moderate executive to avoid serious policy damage while re-energizing their own base in the electoral cycle of 2029, demonstrating the power (and necessity) of the party apparatus for candidates serious about winning.

And where would that leave Andy Kim?

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7 responses to “The Best of All Possible Andy Kims”

  1. Excellent article! Does this mean I should think about buying shares in a nuclear shelter a la “Fallout”?

    That’s the short sightedness your article seems to imply in our political bosses.

  2. Andy Kim calls himself a Progressive Democrat. With all the anguish that Progressives have foisted on this country, why would anyone in NJ vote for him?
    One example is that Progressives have convinced Biden to allow unfettered access to the Southern Border, allowing millions to come through unabated and unvetted. This has/ will create growth in drugs such as Fentanol, crime, housing , feeding, education.

  3. It seems you are saying the Democrat leadership is going to treat Kim the way they treated Barbara Buono. It was a Shameful act of butt kissing Christie. It lead Christie to suddenly become a full time presidental candidate instead of our governor. It lead Buono to show real grace and pride despite the poor behavior of Dems in power. Voters ended up with a failed leadership. Let’s demand a party support the voters chosen candidate. Adding in, if they had left Gov. Dick Codey in office I think we would have been far better off, though I do not have any inside knowledge of these folks.

  4. Yeah, I hear they’re sending robots from the dark side of the moon. They’ve been producing fentanyl there for years. They sneak down your chimney and lace your food while you sleep. Oh, and they are leaving “illegals” under your bed. Better watch out! Those liberals can’t be trusted.

  5. So, party operatives are offended by Andy Kim, who has resoundingly by increasing margins? I guess it is safer to pull levers behind the scenes rather than Kim, putting himself into the public for vetting. He has turned our attention to the nasty politics of NJ. Never again will that work. The folk contributing “small dollars” to his campaign also VOTE. How many votes can the lever pullers deliver? Lever pullers may want to reserve hospital beds to get their butts cleaned after the pending landslide!!

  6. Two things: One-The rank and file Dems implicitly understood and the lever pullers did not about how we feel about Andy Kim is encapsulated in this quote from David Leonhardt “When politicians tell voters to stop caring about an issue, voters often hear it as a sign of disrespect. People rarely vote for a candidate who doesn’t seem to respect them. ” Two-Andy Kim is not just a politician to many of us-he is our friend. Come for our friend and you deal with us. End of subject.

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