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Andy Kim projected to win New Jersey Democratic Senate primary for Bob Menendez's seat

New Jersey's Primary Election results are in. Here's a look at the big races.
New Jersey's Primary Election results are in. Here's a look at the big races. 06:16

CRANFORD, N.J. -- CBS News projects that Rep. Andy Kim has won the Democratic New Jersey Senate primary for the seat held by federally indicted Sen. Bob Menendez. He is projected to face Republican businessman Curtis Bashaw in November. 

With 32% of the vote counted, Kim was leading the next closest challenger, union organizer Patricia Campos Medina, by a margin of 78% to 14%, with activist Larry Hamm trailing in third with 7%. The latest election results can be found on CBS New York's results page.    

"When I jumped in the day after the indictment of Senator Menendez, it was about giving the people of New Jersey a choice, but ultimately what that really resembled was we needed to give the people of New Jersey a fair choice, and for a while in this primary, that was not something that the people were able to get," Kim said Tuesday night after his projected win.

Despite his ongoing bribery trial, Menendez told CBS New York's Christine Sloan on Monday that he had turned in more than 2,000 signatures to have his name placed on the November ballot to run as an independent.

"Senator Menendez says he's running as in independent Democrat. No such thing exists," Kim said Tuesday night.

Early in the race, Kim was also contending with a fourth candidate, Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. In the spring, Kim asked a federal court judge to change the county line ballot system that he argued gave Murphy, an unfair advantage. However, she dropped out of the race in late March.

"Right now, the sitting senator that we are trying to replace is in court, and I think that is something that is creating so much sense of frustration amongst voters in New Jersey and across this country," Kim recently said.

On the Republican side, businessman Curtis Bashaw was projected by CBS News to easily win his race against Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner and former Tabernacle Deputy Mayor Justin Murphy.

"Inflation is too high," Bashaw recently said. "We need better jobs in our state. People want a secure border. They want to support law enforcement."

Glassner was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Her campaign did not respond to requests for comment from CBS New York.   

While New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, the stakes are high with Democrats holding a slim majority in the body. The GOP is looking at Menendez's independent run as a potential wedge that could boost their chances in the fall.

Bashaw centered his campaign in part on ending "one-party monopoly" in New Jersey, where state government is led entirely by Democrats, and on sending a conservative to Washington. It's unclear whether that message will resonate with general election voters. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about one million in New Jersey.  

Kim, a mild-mannered three-term congressman who gained recognition for helping clean up the Capitol after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, launched his bid the day after Menendez's indictment, saying it was time for the state to move on.

Murphy joined the contest later last year and quickly earned support from influential county party leaders, a sign that she would be earning their endorsement and with it the so-called county line — or favorable positioning on the primary ballot.

But Kim and other candidates sued to stop that decades-old practice, which is widely viewed as a giving New Jersey party bosses sway over primaries, and a federal judge agreed to halt it.

Kim, 41, is a native of southern New Jersey and returned to his home state in 2018 to run for Congress, defeating Republican Tom MacArthur in the 3rd District. A Rhodes Scholar, Kim served in the Obama administration as a national security adviser, working at the departments of State and Defense as well as the National Security Council.

Menendez, his wife, and two business associates have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that the senator traded the promise of official acts for gold bars, cash, a luxury vehicle and a mortgage payment. A third business associate has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in the case for prosecutors.

GOP leaders were optimistic that they had their best hope in years of capturing a Senate seat after Menendez's indictment. But those hopes dimmed somewhat when Menendez said he would not run as a Democrat.

After Menendez filed to run as an independent, the GOP is hopeful that Democratic voters might be divided enough to play to the Republicans' advantage.

"Republicans have the best opportunity to win this seat in 52 years," said Republican state Sen. Mike Testa, a Bashaw backer.

Meanwhile, Menendez's son, Rep. Rob Menendez Jr., is the projected winner in New Jersey's 8th Congressional District race.

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