Sending a strong signal that Tom Kean, Jr. is the top choice of Republicans to challenge freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) in 2020, five GOP county chairmen from New Jersey’s 7th district are expected to attend Kean’s formal announcement of candidacy later today in Clark.
Kean will still need to participate in a process that includes open conventions in some counties, but the presence of the party leadership – Glenn Mortimer of Union, Al Gaburo of Somerset, Patrick Torpey of Hunterdon, Ron DeFilippis of Morris and Al Barlas of Essex – sends a message to major national donors who are reluctant to commit resources when the nomination appears uncertain.
Kean, the State Senate minority leader and the son of a former governor, is viewed as a candidate recruitment success for Republicans seeking to regain some of the four New Jersey House seats that flipped to the Democratic column in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“Tom Kean has been a friend for more than two decades. I admire his and his families service to New Jersey and I wholeheartedly have encouraged him to run,” Gaburo told the New Jersey Globe. “The parties focus should be on who is the very best person to win next year — and also raise the necessary resources to get the job done.”
Mortimer says he’s anxious for the congressional seat to return to Union County.
“Tom Kean has my 100% support,” said Mortimer. “Being our favorite son, I am very much on board with his candidacy. He would certainly do our district proud.”
Torpey also said that he encouraged Kean to take on Malinowski.
“I think he’d be a fantastic candidate,” the Hunterdon Republican leader said.
The gesture of county chairs indicating early support, even unofficially, mirrors a strategy employed by Democrat Mikie Sherrill during her 2018 congressional campaign.
The Essex, Passaic, Morris and Sussex Democratic chairs announced their support for Sherrill in January 2018. While still faced four challengers in the Democratic primary, the public support allowed Sherrill to get an early start in raising general election money.
Barlas did not immediately return a 3:15 PM call seeking comment.
Warren County Republican chairman Doug Steinhardt, also the New Jersey Republican state chairman, will not attend the Kean announcement because he’s traveling out of the country.
Kean becomes the second Republican to join the race to take on Malinowski, with Tom Phillips, a 41-year-old human resources executive from Scotch Plains announcing his candidacy last month.
State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) and Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) have refused to rule out running for Congress. Rosemary Becchi, a former U.S. Senate staffer, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
Malinowski, a former assistant U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration, won the seat in the 2018 Democratic wave, defeating five-term Rep. Leonard Lance by 16,200 votes, 52%-47%.
There are 5,066 more Republicans than Democrats in the 7th, which supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election by a 48%-47% margin – a 4,139-vote plurality.
Malinowski raised $562,384 during his first three months in Congress and has $$548,373 cash-on-hand.