Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy at the National Governors Association conference in Atlantic City on July 13, 2022. (Courtesy of the New Jersey Governor’s Office)

First Lady Tammy Murphy announced a campaign for U.S. Senate Wednesday, touting strides on infant and maternal mortality as she enters a fraught contest for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s seat.

Murphy, who filed paperwork to run earlier this month, is the latest in a line of Democrats who have set their eyes on Menendez’s seat following the incumbent’s second corruption indictment.

“I’m running for the United States Senate because New Jersey’s kids and families deserve better — plain and simple,” the first lady said in a video announcing her candidacy.

The first lady touted her work on maternal and infant mortality, pointing to improvements to New Jersey’s standing in national rankings on the issue over the past three years, during which New Jersey moved from a dismal 47th place to 27th place.

She also led a push to add climate change topics to learning standards for New Jersey schools.

The former Goldman Sachs banker joins a widening Senate field that already includes U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-Burlington) and activist Larry Hamm. A fourth candidate, real estate lender Kyle Jasey, launched a Senate bid but instead is running for the eighth district’s House seat now held by U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez (D-Hudson), the senator’s son.

Patricia Campos Medina, executive director of Cornell University’s Workers Institute is also considering a bid.

Unlike Kim, Murphy has no experience holding or seeking elected office, though she served as fundraiser for Gov. Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign and in his capacity as chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

Some Democratic county chairs in South Jersey are expected to back Tammy Murphy’s bid for Menendez’s seat. That support would come with organizational lines that would lend her a favorable position on the primary ballot.

Menendez, who has held the seat since 2006, has not said whether he would seek reelection, but in a statement he said the first couple was seeking to install the first lady into a Senate seat without putting the issue to voters.

“Governor Murphy has said he won’t appoint his wife to the seat, but why would he since there was never a need to?” Menendez said. “They believe they have to answer to nobody, but I am confident that the people of New Jersey will push back against this blatant maneuver at disenfranchisement.”

He noted Tammy Murphy was a Republican until the mid-2000s and sought to tie her to COVID deaths in state-run veterans memorial homes.

The incumbent’s current indictment is his second and has proven more politically damaging than 2015 charges that ended with a hung jury. In the most recent indictment, federal authorities have accused him of trading official favors for cash, gold, and a Mercedes Benz. The senator has denied any wrongdoing and refused Democratic calls for his resignation.

Tammy Murphy didn’t mention Menendez as her reason for running, but alluded to him in her video.

“Right now, Washington is filled with too many people more interested in getting rich or getting on camera than getting things done for you,” she said, over footage of Menendez striding alongside journalists.

Republished courtesy of New Jersey Monitor, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Jersey Monitor maintains editorial independence. Follow New Jersey Monitor on Facebookand Twitter.