The battle is on in Congressional District 7 between the two Tom’s – State Senator Tom Kean, Jr. (R), who has represented LD 21 since 2003 and is currently Minority Leader in the State Senate, and incumbent Representative Tom Malinowski (D) who served under President Obama as Assistant Secretary of State from 2014 to 2017. Success in this race for our Democratic incumbent is not a forgone conclusion.
Heading into the 2018 CD 7 election, forecasters called the seat a toss-up. Leonard Lance (R) had held it since 2008 and Mike Ferguson (R) before him. However in 2016 the district voted for Hillary Clinton (D) by 1 percentage point. Although the district in 2018 still tilted slightly Republican, Malinowski, in the midst of a blue wave, defeated incumbent Lance 165,985 to150,785 (53% to 47%.)
Matt Friedman in POLITICO writes that “Kean is framing his run as a battle between traditional American capitalism versus the open embrace of socialism by some high-profile Democratic freshmen in the House, while ignoring his own party’s move to the right in the Trump ”
Malinowski, however, does not display an “open embrace of socialism” nor does he ignore Trump. He is considered in the middle of the pack ideologically. In January 2019 he said, “Most of the freshmen come from swing districts. We come from places where voters want us to focus on getting things done that can actually be achieved.” Like his 10 other New Jersey Democrats in the 2019 House of Representatives he has voted YES on all of the bills passed by the Democratic-led House.
However, in his more pragmatic approach, when discussing infrastructure, he referenced Trump and said, “We have a tunnel we need to dig. Before we build any walls, we want to focus on some bridges and tunnels in New Jersey.” On the Green New Deal he pulls back from the progressive agenda saying, “If we try to enact the entire progressive agenda in one fell swoop we’re going to enact nothing and we’re not going to do anything about climate change.” On healthcare matters during the campaign he emphasized his strong support for the Affordable Care Act, but also took a somewhat more moderate approach saying, “I believe that every American, no matter their age, should have the freedom to buy into a Medicare plan – if they choose.”
The districts. CD 7 Includes Hunterdon County, and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties. LD 21, Kean’s current district, includes parts of Morris, Somerset and Union counties. Kean resides in Westfield which is within LD 21 and CD 7. Malinowski also resides within CD7 in Rocky Hill Borough, Somerset.
During the announcement his father Tom Kean Sr., a well-respected former Republican Governor, said of his son, “He’s got quiet courage, he’s got decency, he’s got imagination, he’s got drive, he’s got the kind of qualities that you would put together if you want to make an ideal congressman.”
Tom Kean, Jr., in Republican circles, might be considered a moderate and not on the far right. He will likely have the support of the Republican establishment. He is low-key and affable, but plays a weak role in the Democrat-controlled State Senate. He unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D) in 2016. He also sought a House seat in 2000 but lost the primary to Republican Mike Ferguson. DCCC spokesperson Christine Bennett says, “The last thing New Jersey families need is a Chris Christie loyalist and apologist like Tom Kean Jr. … He will be a reliable rubber stamp for the same reckless Washington Republican agenda that’s responsible for raising the cost of health care and tax rates of hardworking New Jersey families.”
On the money: Both candidates will need to raise millions of dollars. Kean’s federal account of total campaign receipts starting in January 2005, when he ran against Sen. Menendez, were almost $8 million, but his ending Cash on Hand through December 2018 is $1,090 with debts of $112,000. Tom Malinowski in his 2018 election campaign raised $6,306,928. So far in 2019 as of March 30 he has raised $562,385 and has $548,376 Cash on Hand.
Look for a hard-fought race in CD 7 between now and 2020.