Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) was reelected in Nov. 2021 so his term ends in Jan. 2026. He could easily run for the Senate in 2024, challenging the ethically challenged Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). If he won, he would start in the Senate in Jan. 2025, missing the last year of his governorship. In that case, Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way, a Black woman, would take over and would be positioned to run herself in Nov. 2025. Governors run for the Senate all the time. Nothing strange there.
What is strange is that Murphy is not interested in taking down Menendez—but his wife, Tammy Murphy (58), is. She just announced a run. Here is her announcement video.
If you watch it, you will see that she is no inexperienced state first lady running for a job she has no business running for (think: Laura Bush running for the Senate in Texas). Tammy is a polished politician in her own right, and has been deeply involved in Democratic politics for years. She has also been a prodigious fundraiser for the Democratic Party and knows everyone who is anyone in New Jersey politics. She has also been deeply involved in her husband's administration.
The governor spent over 20 years working at Goldman Sachs and is thought to be worth something like $50-100 million. She knows this could be held against her, so she addressed it directly in the video, when talking about the births of her four children: "The money in our family's bank account, and frankly, the color of my skin meant I could get the best care available, but that's not the case for a lot of women." One of her issues as first lady has been maternal mortality, especially for minority women. That is going to strike a chord with many women, especially mothers of color.
The nomination is not hers for the taking, though. Menendez may run, but he's toast already, and is a nonfactor in his own reelection campaign. A more serious challenger is Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ). He has the support of the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, Murphy has control of the infrastructure, her powerful husband, unlimited personal money, a massive Rolodex of Democratic politicians and donors, and her own track record working on maternal care. Her presence in the race may also scare off potential challengers.
Other than her lack of experience in elected office, she has one other liability. Although she is pro-choice, pro-environment, and pro-gun control, she was a registered Republican until 2014. Will her party registration 10 years ago hurt her now? Our guess is no since her positions have always been with the Democrats. When Murphy was in her teens and 20s, Republicans in the Northeast, like then-senator Clifford Case of New Jersey, were quite liberal, so she probably registered as a Case-Republican and never bothered to change it. At this point she is clearly the front runner and poised to become New Jersey's first female senator. (V)