But Kim’s victory was no surprise. The congressman launched his political career in his native Burlington County, winning an upset victory in a Republican-leaning district in 2018 that sent him to the House, and he received a standing ovation after speaking here.

So the question at Saturday’s South Jersey county Democratic convention was not whether Kim would win, but by how much.

“I will tell you that I am very proud of that number that I am getting to be able to receive more than 90 percent of the votes in this county. It’s a big number,” Kim told reporters after his victory was announced. “We are feeling this level of energy in all 21 counties. You know, I was in Jersey City yesterday. Hundreds of people showed up, hundreds of people in Bergen County the day before. So we are very excited about this.”

Murphy could now choose to run in the primary election with other candidates in Burlington County, such as Democratic Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, who is running for the House seat Kim is vacating and lost the party endorsement here to Assemblyman Herb Conaway, although it’s unclear if that will happen. Carol and Tammy Murphy are not related.

When asked about running with the other Murphy in Burlington County to appear more prominently on the ballot, Tammy Murphy told reporters that “that idea hasn’t even crossed my mind.”

The New Jersey Democratic primary is June 4. But primaries here are largely determined by county party endorsements before Election Day, which typically translates into a favorable position on the primary ballot, known in New Jersey as “the line,” in the party-backed parties All candidates appear together in a group rather than running by office, as many other states do.

Each New Jersey county party has a different endorsement process for the line: some are top-down, where a local party boss grants the county’s endorsement, while others host party conventions where rank-and-file Democrats, such as The party’s district leaders, or county committee members, as they are called in the state, vote by secret ballot, as Burlington County members did on Saturday.

Kim said he had been advocating for Essex, Middlesex and Union county chairmen in favor of a secret ballot, adding that he saw that line as a liability for Democrats. “I think people see the system as broken and we’re going to lose credibility in terms of these primaries.”

During the convention, in a surprise move, state Sen. Troy Singleton, one of the county’s most influential Democrats, call to abolish county boundary systemsaying that “at some point we should have everyone…on one block across the state.”

Speaking to reporters later, Singleton said he would support legislation to eliminate the single position on the state’s ballots. He joins a growing number of Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Steven Fulop, who say the line should be eliminated.

“It’s timely for us to lead as Democrats with the idea that we don’t need organizational lines to ensure we have the best candidate,” said Singleton, a Kim supporter.

Tammy Murphy, wife of Gov. Phil Murphy, has relied heavily on top-down support from party leaders across the state. County leaders from Democratic strongholds quickly endorsed her, making her the favorite to win the party’s nomination.

And that party support could still prove enough for Murphy to win. But in this first stage, Kim has gained the support of the Democratic base. Earlier this month she won the Monmouth County Democrats’ convention by a landslide and leads public opinion polls against Murphy. The party’s next convention is Sunday in Hunterdon County, a rural swath in the western part of the state.

“I’m just playing by the rules like everyone else does, so I would just say we’re all doing the same thing,” Murphy said when asked about his opinion on the county boundary process. “I think everyone is trying to do the best they can within the system we have.”

There was talk in the run-up to the Burlington convention about the candidates sharing the county line, but that didn’t come to fruition.

Kim has also alleged that the governor himself had intervened in support of a shared line, although Murphy’s campaign has denied this. Singleton said “the governor never talked to me about that.”

Tammy Murphy told reporters she was not aware of the hotline efforts.

According to state data, Burlington County has just under 140,000 Democrats, about 5.6 percent of the state’s total. Monmouth County, where Kim earned the party’s endorsement, also represents 5.6 percent of the statewide Democratic electorate.

Menendez, who has been accused by federal authorities of corruptly using his office, has not said whether he would seek re-election. He did not compete at the convention.

By Sam