Senate candidate Rep. Andy Kim sues to abolish N.J. machine’s ‘county line’ ballot system

Democratic Rep. Andy Kim on Monday sued to abolish the so-called “county line” system that he says gives New Jersey’s party machines far too much power in primaries like the fight he is waging for the seat held by scandal-tarred Sen. Robert Menendez.

Kim, a self-styled suburban insurgent who is running against first lady Tammy Murphy, says the ballot system amounts to an un-democratic advantage to the hand-picked favorites of county party bosses because it gives them much more visible spots on the primary ballot.

“NJ allows a handful of party elites to give their handpicked candidates preferential placement on the ballot,” Kim tweeted. “This is a deeply unfair advantage that disenfranchises voters by applying undue influence and suppressing choice of candidates.”

Kim calls the ballot a “sacred space” for voters and compared the “county line” system to improper electioneering in polling places.

“We certainly shouldn’t allow party leaders to influence where candidates are placed on the actual ballot itself,” he said.

Kim is asking a federal judge to order all of New Jersey’s county clerks to implement a fairer ballot system ahead of his primary against Murphy.

A spokesman for Tammy Murphy called the suit a “sad hypocritical stunt” and accused Kim of opposing the county line system because he is losing the race for powerful endorsements.

Menendez also says he will run for reelection but is facing abysmal polling numbers and a looming trial after he was indicted in an influence-peddling scheme.

Kim, a three-term representative, leads several polls over Tammy Murphy, who has never run for public office and admits being a lifelong Republican until about a decade ago.

With help from her powerful husband Gov. Phil Murphy, Tammy Murphy has locked up the support of many party bosses in the state’s urban strongholds including Essex, Hudson and Camden counties.

Kim has organized a grassroots campaign that has helped him win some of the battles for the county lines in his central Jersey and suburban strongholds.

Win or lose, Kim’s backers hope the lawsuit will spotlight the support Tammy Murphy has received from party bosses, which he calls a throwback to the state’s past as a bastion of corrupt machine politics.