Under the Hood: Assessing Kim’s Win and the Murphy Machine Slog

Monmouth County’s backyard barbecuing of the Tammy Murphy for Senate campaign won’t prompt an Anne Estabrook bow-out, according to Democratic Party sources.



A crucifixion?


A headache?


A big one?


But at the very least worthy of two Tylenol and a couple of busloads of payrolled impassioned backers of the line.

InsiderNJ had four conversations with party machine Democrats in the aftermath of Andy Kim’s chariot drive over the frontrunner.

The first source – a boss – was livid and prepared to “go to war” – the source’s words – against Kim. The basic attitude was “how dare he” subvert the will of the bosses by running a campaign for “the people.” Still stinging from never having received a phone call from Kim, the source “wants a piece of Andy.” If there were a ring involved, the source would run across it and go for a first round kayo of the mild-mannered D.C. policy wonk.

Decidedly less emotional about the situation, the other three sources registered mild degrees of irritation sprinkled with amusement over Tammy Murphy’s Monmouth meltdown.

Criticisms ran the gamut of everything from “they shouldn’t have had guys making the calls to county committee members” to “Why would they humiliate Tammy like that with a secret ballot process?”

The farther north InsiderNJ went with phone calls to party players, the more prevalent the confidence of urban-based patronage machines grinding into action with the line on their side to comfortably put down Kim’s suburban progressive insurrection.


Not really.

More like Roman Empire era complacency. As if the walls built by hundreds of years of taxation will surely keep out the North, or in this case, the South.

“What would you expect Monmouth do?” one source said, as if the entire county – at least for Democrats – consists of rudderless liberals who don’t understand organization. Once the big machine counties kick in, “Tammy will be fine,” the source added.

That said, two other Northern sources did express frustration at the prospect of “an all-hands-on deck situation,” as a consequence of weak establishment candidates, Joe Biden and Tammy Murphy among them. Jittery chairs already eyeballing nascent rebellions in their own fiefdoms fear the momentum Kim generated out of Monmouth. In Passaic, for example, where veteran Chairman John Currie must keep an eye on the movements of former Sheriff Jerry Speziale (who could run off the line), a muscled-up Kim presents a chance for all the antis to “fight the power” with Andy and Jerry.

Currie was said to be grimly observant of the situation.

Then there’s Hudson.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla already has a credible candidacy mounted against incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez, Jr. (D-8), son of Senator Bob Menendez, indicted on federal charges of working as an agent of Egypt and Qatar in exchange for gold bar payoffs.

It’s already bullhorn country for Bhalla.

Bhalla and Kim combined could give the establishment more than just fits.

And so on.

Every progressive voice in the wilderness out there with a clipboard and a little band of crusaders suddenly becomes amplified with the Andy Show on its way into town.

Again, it’s headache level stuff to the party pooh-bahs who run the machines.

But they will have to man the barricades.

Jack Ciattarelli nearly built incumbent Phil Murphy in 2021.

Only the northern machine votes kicking in, especially in Essex, saved him.

The Murphys will apparently utilize the same strategy here, rationalizing Saturday’s leafy suburban loss by burnishing their under-the-radar win in Passaic, playing a county convention game of pickle ball and ultimately taking the air out of suburban tires with urban patronage tank treads, or so goes the basic logic, albeit mixed metaphor marred.

A few old party hands in casual conversations tried to spin Kim’s win into an opportunity for the party to cut some statewide flab in advance of inevitably jettisoning Biden and presenting a more populist-galvanizing collective (with apologies to the legendary band) soul for the 2024 general election. “Andy deserves it,” said a source, through gritted teeth, apparently of the mind that – at long last – it’s no use trying to force-feed another layer of nepotism.

But at least on Sunday heading into Monday, the chairs of the powerful counties, especially in the northern sphere, had no awareness of anything other than Tammy Murphy running and ultimately winning, expressed every expectation, however mildly bothered, of sucking it up, and “doing what we do”, in defense of the realm, in the face of a quaintly suburban uprising supposedly made bigger than the size of the war by the Battle of Monmouth.

Just a little bumpier than usual bulldozer ride.

Editor’s Note: Photo by InsiderNJ Columnist Fred Snowflack.

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10 responses to “Under the Hood: Assessing Kim’s Win and the Murphy Machine Slog”

  1. What’s fascinating is this wasn’t some fringe group of agitators but the loyal democratic base that work every primary.
    Here they had a secret ballot since most of the Pooh bahs were with Murphy

    And in those solid machine counties where the political bosses & certain unions assume the base will follow their word, we will find out how many of their followers are really on board with Tammy on June 4 when they have a secret ballot.

  2. I am a republican but with no meaningful primary in my district and with this utter dumpster fire of a presidential primary, I am strongly considering registering Dem for the primary to vote for Kim and then immediately switching back. Kim’s policies are very far away from what I believe but as someone who believes in free and fair elections, I cannot stomach the disgusting conduct of the northeast machine democrats. When friendly media outlets use terms like “machine” or “coronation”, you know something is wrong and you need to act. For a party that spends so much time bellyaching about “the integrity of our democracy”, they really do a good job of channeling the gilded age when its their people.

  3. The party bosses have lost sight of the fact that the major democratic wins have been because of the grassroots, not them.

    It was the grassroots that flipped the congressional districts in 2018. The bosses weren’t part of it. When the bosses got involved, they started losing those seats.

    They act like Tammy can’t lose. But she can. And when she does, she’s going to take them with her.

  4. I am a registered Democrat and am usually in favor of historic preservation but one antique here in the Garden State is in sore need of the wrecking ball: the machine politics of the Democratic Party. Even when their policies are progressive, their practices are authoritarian and elitist. I am a strong supporter of Andy Kim for just this reason. I am equally opposed to Tammy Murphy, not because of her first name but her last.

  5. What these bosses don’t seem to mind is that putting Tammy in the general election could actually lose the seat. Several Republicans I know are changing their registrations for the primary to vote Andy and will vote for him in the general but will NEVER vote for Tammy. Andy has proven he can get indies and GOP alike in the general. Best the machine could do to keep their power is have Tammy drop out and support Andy. He will then win the general in a landslide.

  6. These bosses sound a lot like most Democrats in the week before the general election of 2016. That went well, didn’t it.

  7. Kim voted AGAINST deporting illegals who are arrested for DWI! Hard to believe he’ll get the nomination! Even in a democrat primary!

  8. I am no fan of (progressive) Andy Kim, but at the same time I do not see that Tammy Murphy has any qualifications whatsoever to be a United States Senator.

  9. All of the Dem Committee members in the counties- like Essex and Hudson- who don’t get to vote at a convention for the party’s endorsement and ballot position, are found to use their considerable experience to support Andy Kim. In the counties where the “boss” makes the decision in a truly undemocratic fashion, we are angry. Really angry. And many of us are also members of grassroots activist organizations working to educate people about the “county line” and where they can find Andy Kim on the ballot.

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