Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) has not ruled out a challenge to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in New Jersey’s 7th district in 2022, but he won’t make any decisions until after the upcoming general election.
“I’m focused on getting re-elected,” Peterson told the New Jersey Globe. “I’m going to consider it after November 2.”
The front runner for the Republican nomination is Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), who came within one percentage point of unseating Malinowski last year.
Kean is giving up his Senate seat to concentrate on his rematch, and endorsements from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signals early support of his candidacy by national Republican leaders. He formally entered the race in July and must disclose his fundraising haul for the last three months by October 15.
If he runs, Peterson will become the fourth candidate to enter the race against Malinowski, along with John Henry Isemann and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Rik Mehta.
It’s not clear what NJ-7 will look like after congressional redistricting redraws the map to reflect the 2020 U.S. Census, but Republicans are unlikely to shed Hunterdon, which Kean carried against Malinowski last year by 9,968 votes, 56%-44%.
Peterson, who mulled a House bid in 2020 but decided against running, has assembled a largely conservative voting record in Trenton. He could be banking on Kean coming out of redistricting with such a strongly Republican West Jersey district that his greatest obstacle to winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives would be a GOP primary.
A 55-year-old attorney, Peterson is seeking his seventh term in the State Assembly in the 23rd legislative district, which includes parts of Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties. Democrats haven’t won the 23rd since Barbara McConnell won a second term in 1979 by 1,661 votes against GOP challenger Dick Zimmer.
After winning a seat on the Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders in 2005, Peterson moved to the legislature in 2009 to replace Michael Doherty, who won a special election for State Senate.