Kean Ousts Malinowski in Rematch, Gives GOP a Red Seat in a Blue State
Kean Ousts Malinowski in Rematch, Gives GOP a Red Seat in a Blue State

By John Haughey

Republican state Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., who came within 1 percentage point of winning the seat two years ago, has ousted two-term incumbent Rep. Tom Malinowski’s (D-N.J.) in New Jersey’s Congressional District 7 (CD 7), picking up a key red win in a blue state.

According to results posted by the New Jersey Secretary of State Office’s Division of Elections (DOE), Kean garnered 52.3 percent, or 153,535 of 293,340 ballots cast, to Malinowski’s 47.7 percent to win their Nov. 8 election.

Analysts nationwide were watching New Jersey’s marquee midterm rematch between Malinowski and Kean because it was viewed by the GOP as an opportunity for the GOP to flip one of the state’s 10 Democratic-held seats and send a third Republican to Congress.

Kean, 54, served 20 years in the New Jersey State Assembly. The grandson of former U.S. Rep. Robert Kean (R-N.J.), and son of former Republican Gov. Thomas Kean, Sr., this is his fourth attempt to win a Congressional seat.

On Election Night, Kean refrained from declaring victory in the race but reiterated his “solemn pledge … to serve with integrity, to listen, to learn, to earn this responsibility you’ve honored me with to steer this nation toward greater opportunity, security, and prosperity.”

Malinowski actually conceded before Kean acknowledged the results. “I am deeply grateful to the people of the 7th District for the honor of representing you, and I congratulate Congressman-Elect Kean,” he said in a statement issued before noon EST on Nov. 9.

Malinowski, 57, a native of Poland, served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, was chief advocate for Human Rights Watch, and was an Assistant Secretary of State under President Barak Obama before winning a House seat in 2018. 

Kean followed up with a statement thanking Malinowski for “years of public service and his vigorous campaign” before calling his election “an opportunity to change the course of history.” 

Kean lost to Malinowski by less than 5,300 votes in 2020, but post-Census reapportionment made CD 7 more accommodating to GOP candidates.

In fact, according to the New Jersey DOE, as of Nov. 1, there were more registered Republicans than Democrats in CD 7, which is among the nation’s 10 most-affluent and well-educated congressional districts; it includes former President Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf resort.

The New Jersey DOE reports 33 percent—206,589—of the “new” CD 7’s 617,703 voters are registered Republicans, with 30 percent, less than 190,000, registered as Democrats.

Two-term New Jersey Congressional District 7 Democratic incumbent Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) shakes hands with a veteran at VFW Post 5119 in Glen Gardner, N.J., during a campaign meet-and-greet prior to November’s midterm election. (Courtesy Tom Malinowski for Congress)

The new district map rerouted previous paths to electoral success, Malinowski acknowledged in his concession statement.

“We did as well or better than in 2020 in the communities I have represented these last four years. The new district proved too much of a hurdle to overcome,” he said.

Campaigning

Both campaigns reflected generic partisan talking points and polarities, with both candidates touting self-described moderate platforms in appealing to the purple district’s voters while calling their opponent a puppet of extremist leaders too radical for suburban New Jersey—Malinowski with House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Kean said, and, Malinowski said, Kean with former President Trump.

The Kean campaign focused on inflation and the economy with top priorities of “reining in out-of-control spending,” making America energy independent, and supporting middle-class tax relief.

On abortion, Kean supports a right to choose up to 20 weeks and allowances after that for some circumstances. His campaign circulated a Parents Voice Coalition Petition “against (New Jersey Democratic) Gov. Phil Murphy’s ‘CRT agenda’.”

Although regarded as one of the more conservative House Democrats, one of Malinowski’s top priorities was ensuring access to abortion by federal law. His campaigning insisted Kean would support fellow Republicans in allowing states to ban abortion and vote for a national prohibition in Congress.

Unlike Kean, Malinowski ran an aggressive campaign with public rallies and events across Central New Jersey, calling Kean a lackey of the “far loony right.” 

Another indicator is the self-inflicted damage that Malinowski imposed on his campaign that could have had a bearing on how voters in this district cast their ballots, unlike many others elsewhere.

A significant segment of the district’s electorate work in New York City’s FinTech and stockbroker industries. Malinowski is under investigation by the federal Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) for failing to disclose hundreds of January 2019-May 2021 stock transactions

Malinowski has acknowledged and apologized for what he called an error in oversight, but the Kean campaign called it corruption. Malinowski has since placed his assets into a blind trust.

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