Rep. Andy Kim poised for history as Tammy Murphy quits NJ Senate race

Rep. Andy Kim looks set to become the first Korean American U.S. senator in the nation’s history after New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy pulled the plug on her Democratic primary campaign for the seat held by scandal-tarred Sen. Bob Menendez.

The popular trailblazing central Jersey lawmaker is the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination in a June primary against two minor candidates after Murphy abandoned her troubled bid that was backed by the Garden State’s powerful Democratic political machine.

Kim, who won national headlines by helping workers clean the U.S. Capitol after the Jan. 6 attack, said he was still “catching my breath” after Murphy effectively cleared the way for him to win the Democratic nod.

“We are here at this moment today because of the extraordinary grassroots movement growing in NJ,” Kim tweeted Sunday night. “And I can promise you we are going to keep running the strongest possible campaign imaginable through Election Day.”

Kim and Murphy had been locked in a Titanic battle for the nomination with Murphy, a former lifelong Republican, leaning heavily on the still-powerful party network led by her husband, Gov. Phil Murphy.

Kim has filed a federal suit aimed at ending Jersey’s only-in-the-nation ballot system that gives machine-backed candidates much more visible spots on the primary ballot, a system that Tammy Murphy was hoping she could ride to victory.

But Tammy Murphy abruptly pulled out of the race after a string of embarrassing setbacks, including losses to Kim in several county conventions in which secret ballots were held.

With no significant Democratic opposition, Kim is considered very likely to fend off a Republican opponent in the fall general election in the blue-leaning state.

Menendez, who is awaiting trial on federal corruption, bribery and obstruction charges, says he may run as an independent but is polling in the single digits and is not considered likely to play a major role in the race.

Kim would join Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Sen. Mazie Hiromo (D-Hawaii) as senators of Asian descent.