Andy Kim Leads Polls in NJ’s Senate Race But Tammy Murphy Has the Fundraising Advantage

Rep. Andy Kim (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

(The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) — There was good news and bad news for U.S. Rep. Andy Kim in his bid for a New Jersey Senate seat last week: A poll released Friday showed Kim up 12 points ahead of New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy in the campaign for the Democratic primary, but campaign finance reports this week show Murphy’s fundraising prowess and sizable in-state donor support, both of which could be key in the hotly contested and expensive primary election just four months away.

“You’re looking at two viable candidates with different paths,” New Jersey political consultant Anthony Campisi, who is not working for either candidate, said. “The question is: Will both have the resources they need to compete long term?”

Kim and Murphy are vying for the nomination to succeed embattled Sen. Bob Menendez, who is facing corruption and bribery charges and hasn’t yet announced whether he will run again. The Fairleigh Dickinson survey revealed he’s the first choice of just 9% of primary voters.

The race is also poised to test the traditional New Jersey establishment control over primary elections.

Murphy, the wife of two-term Governor Phil Murphy, is a prolific fundraiser, with the backing of many of the powerful New Jersey elected leaders in the state. Kim is known for winning a swing congressional district, which encompasses Philadelphia’s eastern suburbs in southern and central New Jersey. He has framed his campaign as a fight against party elites and corruption in the state.

Here’s what some of the fundraising numbers say about the race ahead:

Murphy Is Outraising Kim

Kim and Murphy started the year off on similar financial footing, according to reports — each with about $2.7 million in their campaign accounts. But while Kim raised about $1.7 million in the last quarter, Murphy raised $3.2 million. And Kim’s ending balance includes money he was able to carry over from his House campaign account.

Murphy is also bringing in money at a faster clip.

Murphy and her husband have been fundraisers for Democratic candidates around the country for the last decade. The governor is a former national finance chair of the Democratic Party. New Jersey is an expensive media market and the candidates have a compressed timeline to bring in dollars to run campaign operations and go on TV closer to the June primary.

“Tammy has been humbled and energized by the groundswell of support her campaign has received from all 21 counties since she entered the race on November 15,” said Alex Altman, spokesperson for the Murphy campaign. “Her historic fundraising numbers highlight that now, more than ever, New Jersey’s hardworking families are ready for a new energy and voice in Washington.”

Murphy is also getting more of her money from donors in New Jersey, records show. About 51% of Murphy’s money comes from New Jersey, whereas about 35% of Kim’s does. But Kim has more individual donors who live in the state — over five times more than Murphy.

Kim said in an interview that he’ll have the money to compete. “We’re going to be armed to the teeth as well. I’m sure she’ll raise a lot and potentially outspend me, but we’ve been in that situation before.”

And Kim noted a chunk of Murphy’s donors — about 23% — have maxed out, compared to fewer than 2% of his donors. In total, 84% of Murphy’s money came from donors who gave the full allowable $3,300 for the primary.

Murphy could also benefit from a super PAC, Garden State Integrity, which is backing her candidacy, though so far the group reported bringing in just $120,000 last year.

Kim Has More Donors, Most of Them Small-Dollar

Kim has three times the number of individual donors as Murphy. He also leads Murphy in small-dollar donations — 81% of his donors gave less than $50. Fewer than half of Murphy’s donors gave that little.

Kim argues that shows momentum that can translate to organizing and more potential for growth.

“We’re building up what’s going to be, in our hopes, the largest grassroots mobilization for a Senate primary in New Jersey history,” Kim said.

But much of the enthusiasm for Kim is outside of the state. More than half of his donors and the dollars they contributed came from outside New Jersey.

Kim has also struggled getting endorsements in the state. Murphy has the support of most of the New Jersey Democratic congressional delegation and a growing list of county and state leaders. She also has the backing of Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, who held a fundraiser for her in December.

Kim recently got endorsements from six Democrats from Pennsylvania, including Sen. John Fetterman, who has been fundraising for Kim.

Kim’s campaign has argued that out-of-state supporters recognize the problem with New Jersey politics and more broadly corruption in politics.

Voters are still getting to know both candidates. The Fairleigh Dickinson poll showed 31% of Democratic voters had not decided whom to vote for. It also showed Murphy has the name-recognition advantage — 68% of voters had heard of her, whereas only 52% had heard of Kim.

The primary enters a key phase this month when counties will start holding endorsement conventions.

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