Democratic leaders in Sen. Bob Menendez’s home county and longtime power base announced their endorsement Wednesday for New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy to replace him, dealing a huge blow to any hope the senator may have held for keeping some party support for reelection.

“The Hudson County Democratic Organization is honored to give Tammy Murphy our full, unequivocal support. We look forward to working closely with Tammy and her team to reintroduce her to Hudson County voters and help her become the first woman to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate,” Anthony Vainieri, the party’s chair, said in a statement about five hours after Murphy formally kicked off her campaign.

Hudson County Democrats were more reluctant than their colleagues around the state to call for Menendez to resign following his indictment on three counts of bribery and conspiracy, followed by a superseding indictment charging him with being an unregistered agent for the Egyptian government.

“[P]eople don’t realize that Senator Menendez is like a rock star in Hudson County,” Vainieri said in September, just after Menendez’s initial indictment.

It’s the first endorsement of Murphy by any county organization, packing both a symbolic and practical punch. Not only does it show Democats in Menendez’s home base are ready to move on, but it means Murphy will get the coveted “county line” in the densely populated and heavily Democratic county just across the Hudson River from New York City.

Hudson Democrats in a statement praised Murphy for “her strong record of advocating for progressive policy initiatives” and did not mention Menendez.

Background: Menendez grew up in Union City, in northern Hudson County, and has lived there for much of his life, though he’s most recently resided nearby in Englewood Cliffs in Bergen County. Menendez built his political career in Hudson, first being elected to Union City’s school board in the 1970s before representing the county in the state Legislature, U.S. House and Senate.

Menendez was a Hudson County power broker until his indictment. His son, Rob Menendez, took over his old House seat in 2022 following the retirement of Albio Sires with the acquiescence of local Democrats.

Menendez has not said whether he’s running for reelection, but has in recent weeks made defiant statements, including one Wednesday morning to greet Tammy Murphy’s campaign launch.

Mayors from all but one of Hudson County’s municipalities joined in the statement backing Tammy Murphy.

What’s next? Should Menendez choose to run for reelection, his son may have to choose between running for reelection on a ticket aligned with his father or one opposed to it. The only Hudson County mayor absent from the endorsement statement was Hoboken’s Ravi Bhalla, who has been considering a primary challenger to the younger Menendez.

A Stockton poll late last month found that 71 percent of New Jersey residents have an unfavorable view of the senator.

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