Let me first say that I don’t usually get involved in primary challenges. I usually respect the will of the voters to decide their candidate instead of interjecting my opinion into matters. I think this primary challenge is different, as it is about removing a highly risky incumbent who could jeopardize our control of the Senate.
The bombshell indictment of Sen. Menendez has rocked New Jersey politics to its core. Almost every Democratic member of Congress (with the exception of his son, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Rep. Donald Payne) has come out and called for him to resign. Rep. Andy Kim was the first politician from New Jersey to do so.
Sen. Menendez refuses to resign. This mess needs to be cleaned up. Luckily for us, there already is someone with a history of cleaning up messes who has taken the plunge.
The tweet reads as follows:
After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said “I am not going anywhere.” As a result, I feel compelled to run against him. Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity. Please join me:
That's right — Rep. Andy Kim is trying to solve another problem by running in the primary against Sen. Menendez!
What’s the Big Idea?
When you look at states that are corrupt, New Jersey is near the top of the list. Sen. Bob Menendez is just a symptom of the greater malaise that festers in the state. The Democratic Party, I am sorry to say, is part of the problem in the state. In order to have a chance in politics in the state, a politician has to court the two political machines that run the state.
One of them is based out of North Jersey, and it is the home base of Menendez. This machine won’t cut him loose, because he is very important in that machine. The evidence is that the party machinery cleared the field for his son in 2022 for the NJ-08 House seat. That doesn’t happen without Menendez making calls to his buddies back home.
The other political machine is based in South Jersey, and it is run currently by the Norcross family. Rep. Donald Norcross is in charge of that apparatus, and it can be every bit as corrupt as the one in North Jersey. The two can work at cross purposes and be rivals at times. The evidence that there is no love lost between the two camps is the fact that Norcross has called for a resignation of Menendez.
The county party line is VERY important in the state. Without gaining it, there is very little hope in succeeding in a primary election. Many county party chairs have already called on Menendez to resign. They are also calling an emergency meeting to discuss removing Menendez from the party line.
This is an excellent breakdown of where the primary voters are in the state of New Jersey. Kim is at a disadvantage, because South Jersey only accounts for 34% of the total vote. He will have to make inroads further to the north and hope another primary challenger does not emerge.
I hope this is a decent primer on New Jersey politics. I am no expert in the state, so people from that state can help fill in any details I am missing.
Who is Rep. Andy Kim?
Rep. Andy Kim came to Congress during the blue wave election in 2018. He defeated a GOP incumbent in a very close race, and then he held on to win in 2020 by a slightly larger margin. He became notorious after the 1/6 insurrection for helping clean up the Capitol after the insurrectionists left the building and after the 2020 election was certified.
Here is some background information on Rep. Andy Kim:
Rep. Andy Kim has had a fascinating history, of which I can only scratch the surface. If you want more information about him, here and here are good places to start.
- Kim is the son of Korean immigrants who migrated to southern New Jersey in search of better opportunities for their children. As you will see, young Andy Kim took advantage of those opportunities through a tenacious work ethic.
- Kim is a Rhodes scholar, and he went abroad and studied at Oxford University. There, he met and befriended another rising star in the Democratic Party in Pete Buttigieg, who of course is now the Secretary of Transportation under Biden.
- Kim worked in the State Department and was an advisor to General Petraeus in Afghanistan. Once he came home, he was also a national security advisor to Obama late in his presidency. This gave him the political connections to run an effective campaign later on.
Here are some issues in which Rep. Andy Kim is strong at:
Health Care and Abortion: Rep. Andy Kim supports Medicare being able to negotiate prescription drug prices, as well as cover dental/vision/hearing without the Medicare Advantage scam. He would protect the ACA, especially the pre-existing condition portion of the Act. Finally, he would be a vote to codify Roe as he is pro-choice.
Climate Change and the Environment: Kim realizes that climate change is a potent threat, as shore flooding happens quite frequently in southern New Jersey. He is for honoring our agreements in the Paris accords and for cutting our emissions by 50% by 2030. He would also repeal tax breaks for polluters. Finally, his work ten years after Superstorm Sandy is ongoing in securing funds to rebuild.
Veterans Issues: Kim served as a policy advisor in the State Department, and witnessed the carnage of Afghanistan firsthand. He is working to lower the suicide rate of veterans, as well as working to provide employment opportunities for them. Finally, he wants to improve outreach to homeless veterans who should not be penalized for serving our country by mental health challenges.
Rep. Andy Kim votes for the Biden agenda nearly 100% of the time, and he would make a fine Senator.
Who is Sen. Bob Menendez?
I’m setting aside the two different corruption indictments, as it has been covered amply elsewhere. I also will try and give him a fair shake, despite my detestation of him. Hopefully I can accomplish this.
Sen. Bob Menendez first came to Congress in 1992 after stints in the New Jersey Assembly and New Jersey Senate. He started out as a reformer, but when he reached the House he was solidly in charge of the Hudson County political machine. He was promoted to the Senate early in 2006 when Gov. Jon Corzine tapped Menendez to replace him.
Here is some background information on Sen. Bob Menendez:
- Menendez is the son of Cuban immigrants that travelled from that nation in the early 1950s to New Jersey. Young Bob Menendez also had a sterling work ethic, and a knack for public speaking awakened by one of his teachers.
- He became the first in his family to go to college, majoring in political science and eventually getting a law degree from Rutgers law school. He immediately went into private practice for a while before jumping into politics.
- He started out as a reformer in the corrupt Hudson County political machine, running against a corrupt mayor that was once his confidante and ally. He lost the first attempt at ousting his mentor, but succeeded the second time in doing so.
Here are some issues in which Sen. Bob Menendez is strong at:
Immigration Reform: Menendez has been attempting to fix our broken immigration system ever since getting into the Senate. He has had numerous bills die in committee or get filibustered by the GOP. He supports the DREAM Act and many other provisions to modernize our immigration policy. He does, however, vote for funds for a border fence and border security at the same time.
Foreign Policy: He is the chair of the Foreign Policy Committee, or was until the latest allegations of corruption lead to an indictment. His goal is to rebuild our relationships with nations that were alienated by the Trump years. On the flip side, he is quite hawkish, and he is one of the staunchest defenders of Israel in Congress.
Sen. Menendez has voted for the Biden agenda nearly 100% of the time, although he has criticized a few foreign policy decisions made by the Biden-Harris administration.
I know that Menendez has his defenders out there. I also know that primaries can get very heated when being discussed here, as everyone has their preferred candidate. You can probably tell that mine is Rep. Andy Kim!
I will note that Sen. Menendez has not committed to running again. It is quite possible that he decides to not run for re-election or even resigns — but his statement put out yesterday makes it clear he intends to fight the charges and stay in the Senate as long as possible. Hence why I feel that a primary challenge is necessary and appropriate here.
I will also note that just because Rep. Andy Kim is the first major challenger does not mean that other names won’t get in. I would be shocked if no one else entered the race. The problem with too many entering the race is the clown car effect — they each take votes away from one another and it could allow Sen. Menendez to stay in power. That would be a disaster, as he would put the seat at great risk of flipping in 2024.