Andy Kim & Jon Tester: The Democrats' Hope in Senate Battles

U.S. Representative Andy Kim won New Jersey's Democratic primary to challenge for the Senate seat held by Bob Menendez, who is running as an independent. In Montana, Jon Tester was nominated for a fourth Senate term, in a race set to be fiercely contested against Trump-backed candidate Tim Sheehy.

Reuters | Updated: 05-06-2024 08:35 IST | Created: 05-06-2024 08:35 IST
Andy Kim & Jon Tester: The Democrats' Hope in Senate Battles

U.S. Representative Andy Kim won New Jersey's Democratic primary to run in the Nov. 5 election for the Senate seat held by Bob Menendez, and Jon Tester was nominated for a fourth Senate term in Montana, Edison Research projected on Tuesday. Menendez, who is on trial on corruption charges, is not on the Democratic ballot in New Jersey and is running as an independent.

Edison Research projected Kim defeating labor union activist Patricia Campos Medina with 75.4% of the vote to her 15.7% after an estimated 57% of the vote was counted. By winning the primary, Kim - a former U.S. State Department foreign affairs officer - is making his first bid for statewide office in New Jersey, which solidly backed Democratic President Joe Biden in 2020.

More than 2,000 miles (3,220 km) to the west, Montana Democrats nominated Senator John Tester for another run in what will be one of the party's toughest races this year in its campaign to retain control of the Senate. Edison declared Tester the primary winner, garnering nearly 98% of the vote with 14% of the estimated vote counted.

While the veteran Menendez was absent from the Democratic primary for the first time in decades, he is "still very much a favorite" of Cuban American voters in a region of New Jersey that has been known as "Havana on the Hudson," said Ross Baker, distinguished professor of American politics at Rutgers University. Baker added in a telephone interview, however, that Menendez would likely not prevail as an independent.

"He has been disowned by practically everyone, including Governor (Philip) Murphy and, with great reluctance, (fellow U.S.) Senator (Cory) Booker." Republicans also chose their Senate candidate, with New Jersey real estate developer and hotelier Curtis Bashaw winning over the Donald Trump-endorsed Mayor of Mendham borough, Christine Serrano-Glassner.

With 61% of the estimated vote tallied, Bashaw led 47.4%-37.3%, according to Edison. The last time New Jersey had an elected Republican senator was in 1978.

Menendez, 70, also loomed large in Tuesday's Democratic primary for New Jersey's 8th House of Representatives district, which includes Jersey City. The senator's 38-year-old son, Rob Menendez, who is seeking a second two-year term, won the Democratic primary, Edison projected. His leading opponent, 50-year-old Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, tailored campaign ads aimed at linking the son to his embattled father.

With 76% of the expected vote counted, Rob Menendez was leading Bhalla 54% to 35.3%, Edison Research said. TESTER'S TEST

Democrats are engaged in a fierce battle to hold onto their 51-49 Senate majority, defending a half-dozen highly competitive seats as the incumbent Republicans up for reelection are in safely conservative states. One of the hardest-fought general election battles will be in Montana, where voters nominated three-term Senator Tester for another six-year stint.

Political pundits rate the fall race a toss-up between Tester and the Republican-declared nominee, Trump-backed Tim Sheehy. The former Navy SEAL is now a businessman. After Trump was found guilty on Thursday of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star before the 2016 election, Sheehy's campaign aired an ad calling the trial "a state-sponsored political persecution led by Joe Biden and the radical left."

While there has been no evidence that President Biden played any role in the case brought by a Manhattan prosecutor, the ad said, "Jon Tester supported Joe Biden's witch hunt every step of the way." Monica Robinson, a spokesperson for the Tester campaign, in an emailed statement attacked Sheehy, a former Minnesotan, as an out-of-stater who is "running for Senate to benefit himself, not Montana."

Robinson added that Tester succeeded in getting over 20 bills signed into law by Trump when he was president. Tester, a Montana farmer, will be running in a state in which Trump, a Republican, prevailed in his two presidential runs, although by a smaller margin in 2020 than in 2016.

"He's (Tester) a little bit of a relic," said Christopher Muste, an associate political science professor at the University of Montana. "What we're seeing is an unusual Republican slow wave over time that really began in the late 2000s," gradually erasing a history of strong bipartisanship in the Rocky Mountain state, Muste said.

A wild card in this year's voting, however, is the large number of "transplants" who have recently moved to Montana, largely from California, Oregon and Washington state. These newcomers have fed a surge in housing prices, angering many Montanans, especially those on fixed incomes who are seeing their property taxes escalate.

It's a development that Tester likely will exploit in a general election race against Sheehy, himself a wealthy transplant, Muste said in a telephone interview. "He's (Sheehy) emblematic of people coming into the state with a lot of money, buying very expensive real estate," Muste said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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