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Underdog candidate Andy Kim wins NJ Senate primary, setting up battle against Bob Menendez

New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim defeated his Democratic rivals in the state’s Democratic primary Tuesday night and will face off against embattled Sen. Bob Menendez in November, who is running for re-election as an Independent. 

Rep. Kim defeated challengers Lawrence Hamm and Patricia Campos Medina to have the opportunity to unseat Menendez who has held the elected role since 2006, currently serving his third term.

Menendez is embroiled in a bribery scandal also involving his wife, Nadine. He faces various criminal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, bribery, acting as a foreign agent, extortion and honest services fraud. 

Menendez and his wife have both pleaded not guilty to bribery and obstruction of justice charges. They are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in the form of cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz for the benefit of various business persons and the Egyptian government.

ANDY KIM GAINS MOMENTUM OVER NJ FIRST LADY IN DEMOCRATIC SENATE CONVENTION TO REPLACE BOB MENENDEZ

In February, Kim defeated New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy in the state’s first Democratic convention by a large margin – indicating he’d earned significant momentum and ultimately leading Murphy to drop out of the race.

“The energy that we have is real, and it should not be underestimated,” Kim said after securing the county-line in Monmouth in February. 

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., has notably backed Kim in the congressman’s bid to win the contested primary for New Jersey’s Senate seat. 

ANDY KIM SEES 3RD STRAIGHT WIN OVER NEW JERSEY FIRST LADY TAMMY MURPHY IN PRIMARY BATTLE FOR BOB MENENDEZ SEAT

Menendez in Capitol hallway with distressed look on his face

Fetterman was an early proponent of calling for Menendez’s ouster from Congress after federal prosecutors charged Menendez, his wife and business associates with taking bribes in cash and gold bars in exchange for helping the government of Egypt — and, in a later indictment, Qatar as well.

Menendez and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty, and the senator has vowed to fight the charges. Unlike the first time he was indicted — charges that ultimately led to a hung jury in 2017 — Menendez has lost support within the Democratic Party in his home state, where his influence was once virtually unassailable.

Kim also had filed a lawsuit as part of his bid for the Senate seat claiming that New Jersey’s primary ballot design unconstitutionally favors candidates who have the support of political party leaders and should be scrapped. 

NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE ACCUSES ‘DEMOCRATIC PARTY ELITES’ OF MANIPULATING PRIMARY RACE

Andy Kim outside on Capitol Hill

In March, U.S. District Judge Zahid Quraishi granted Kim a preliminary injunction, ordering the use of office block ballots for the June primary.

“The integrity of the democratic process for a primary election is at stake and the remedy Plaintiffs are seeking is extraordinary,” Quraishi wrote in his opinion. He added that the plaintiffs “have met their burden and that this is the rare instance when mandatory relief is warranted.”

The court victory, Kim said, was “built from the incredible grassroots work of activists across our state who saw an undemocratic system marginalizing the voices of voters, and worked tirelessly to fix it.”

“While fixing this unfair ballot system is a massive step forward towards perfecting our democracy, there is still work to be done. Both in New Jersey and nationwide, we need to regain the trust of the voters we serve,” he said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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