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Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Congressional Leadership Fund names Kean to first wave of ‘Trailblazers’

By Joey Fox, January 05 2022 9:24 am

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a major Super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the U.S. House, named Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) as one of its first 11 ‘Trailblazer’ candidates, a list of Republican candidates around the nation campaigning for predominantly competitive seats.

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Kean is running in New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, a seat currently held by incumbent Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), who has not yet confirmed that he will be seeking re-election at all.

“We need 5 seats to take back the House Majority and these trailblazers are the first that will get the job done,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement. “Each of these 11 candidates have demonstrated they have exactly what it takes to earn the trust of voters and win in November.”

Kean, the head of the Senate Republican caucus since 2008, ran against Malinowski in 2020 and lost by just one percentage point, even as President Joe Biden was carrying the district by 10 points. Now, Kean is seeking a rematch in what appears to be a more favorable political environment and in a more favorable district; the newly redrawn 7th district is six points less Democratic than the one Kean lost in 2020.

But first, Kean faces a potentially competitive primary against Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin), 2020 Republican Senate nominee Rik Mehta, and possibly 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo, among other candidates. 

Last November, the National Republican Campaign Committee added Kean to their Young Guns list, and Kean has been endorsed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The CLF’s announcement today, then, is a further indication that national Republicans are prepared to fight for Kean to become the Republican nominee in the seat.

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