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U.S. Representative Andy Kim, First Lady Tammy Murphy Attend U.S. Senate Candidate Forum in Pollak Theatre

U.S. Representative Andy Kim, New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, and activist Patricia Campos-Medina attended a 2024 U.S. Senate candidate forum at Pollak Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 3. The forum, hosted by the Monmouth University College Democrats, brought an estimated 250 Democratic voters to the theatre to listen to each candidate as the primary race heats up.

Doors to the event opened at 1 p.m., and the steady stream of voters began taking their seats. At around 2 p.m., the moderators introduced Andy Kim, the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s third district. Kim received a Rhodes Scholarship and studied at Oxford University before working within the State Department and on the U.S. National Security Council. In 2018, Kim challenged two-term U.S.

Representative Tom MacArthur, a Republican. In 2016, MacArthur had won his seat by 20 points, but in 2018, Kim flipped the district and has won re-election every year since, according to the Associated Press. In his opening remarks, Kim discussed his time serving the U.S. in the Middle East and within the State Department, as well as his history of winning tight races in a district won by Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

All candidates were asked the same five questions and allowed three minutes to answer each one. Then, each candidate was given three questions submitted by members of the audience and two minutes to answer. The five questions asked to each candidate were as follows: “Why are you running for U.S. Senate, and what life experiences and qualifications make you uniquely qualified for this position compared to your opponents?”; “What are the three biggest issues facing New Jersey residents at this time, and as a U.S. Senator, what will you do to address them?”; “How important will party building be to you as a U.S. Senator, and how will you work to support those on the ballot with you?”; “In a place like Monmouth County, which traditionally leans more Republican, how will you appeal to moderate and independent voters?”; “Monmouth County Democrats pride ourselves on having the most open convention in the state. Over 800 delegates vote; our county chair here has a policy not to endorse before the convention, and there are no at large delegates in our convention. Four U.S. Senate candidates filed at our Feb. 10 convention. Why should any delegate listening here vote for you today?”

Around 2:45 p.m., Monmouth University College Democrats Vice President Claire Gaston, one of the two moderators for the forum, introduced New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy. Murphy, the wife of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, has the endorsements of Governor Murphy, the State Senate President, eight of New Jersey’s County Democratic Party Chairs, and five of New Jersey’s U.S. Representatives, including Frank Pallone, who represents Monmouth County and was present at the forum. Murphy spent much of her time discussing her work as First Lady on maternal mortality and climate change curriculum in public school education.

Just after 3:15 p.m., activist Patricia Campos-Medina was introduced to the crowd. Campos-Medina is an educator with a focus on union organizing, voting rights, and racial justice. She is currently serving as the President of Latina Civic, which pushes Latinas to run for public office, along with working within NJ Citizen Action, Ready to Run and as a fellow at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Campos-Medina spoke about the need for a progressive outsider to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate and her upbringing in a middle-class family.

State Senator Vin Gopal, a Democrat who was recently re-elected to represent Monmouth County in Newark along with Assemblywoman Luanne Peterpaul, who recently flipped a Monmouth County state assembly seat into Democratic control, were present. New Jersey’s current U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who has been indicted and under federal investigation for financial crimes, was not in attendance at the forum but is running for re-election.

Kim holds a lead over his fellow candidates, polling at 32%, compared to Murphy at 20%, and Menendez at 9%, according to a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. Kim and Murphy are set to square off in a debate on Feb. 18 and still have months of campaigning to go until New Jersey voters head to the polls in June to select their respective nominees.