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Tom Kean, Jr. is running against Tom Malinowski
Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

GOP field now cleared for Kean vs. Malinowski

Becchi exit allows Kean to save money on primary — and raise even more

By David Wildstein, January 19 2020 7:02 pm

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. has a clear path to take on freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski in New Jersey’s 7th district now that rival Rosemary Becchi is switching to the neighboring 11th.

Kean is now spared the expense of a running a primary campaign, saving his money for the general election.

More importantly, Kean can now attract donors who typically wait until after the primary to begin playing in what is expected to be a nationally prominent House race.

That means he can bring in dollars now that he might never have gotten had Becchi stayed in the race.

Kean had been the clear front runner for the Republican nomination since he announced his exploratory committee last March, two months after Malinowski took office.  He’s won over 250 endorsements from local elected officials and party leaders.

Over the next few weeks, Kean was poised to win organization lines for the primary.  Union County has their convention set for next week, followed by votes in Hunterdon and Somerset that Kean is poised to win.  Kean was set to run on the line in Essex as well.

In preparation for those conventions, Becchi had sent out three mailings to county committee members: one positive and two that contrasted her with Kean.  The New Jersey Globe has leaned that Becchi pulled a fourth mailer on Saturday, in anticipation of jumping to the race against Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

Two Republicans still in the race against Kean, Tom Phillips and Rob Trugman, have demonstrated no political or fundraising support.

Malinowski, a former assistant U.S. Secretary of State, beat five-term incumbent Leonard Lance by 16,200 votes, 52%-47%, becoming the first Democrat to win the 7th district seat since 1956.

As a first-time candidate, Malinowski raised nearly $6.3 million – more than double what Lance raised.  Those totals do not include independent expenditures made for or against either candidate, or spending made by candidates’ political action committees.

During his first year in Congress, Malinowski raised almost $2.4 million and closed the year with a strong $615,000 4th quarter.  He now has more than $2 million in his warchest.

Kean has not yet announced his 4th quarter fundraising numbers, but he had brought in over $1 million since declaring his candidacy last April.

The 7th district has 1,806 more Republicans than Democrats.  When the district was drawn following the 2010 census, there were 29,997 more Republicans.

In 2019, Republican Assembly candidates won the municipalities in the 7th congressional districts by a combined 16,000 votes.  In Somerset County, where Democrats won races for freeholder and sheriff, GOP candidates carried the municipalities in Malinowski’s district.

When Malinowski ran against Lance in 2018, he was helped by the withdrawal of most of his rivals after running the table at county Democratic conventions to win all six organization lines.

Linda Weber withdrew from the race after Malinowski defeated her at a Union County Democratic screening committee by just one vote.  Other rivals, including Lisa Mandelblatt and Scott Salmon, dropped out to endorse Malinowski.

That let Malinowski pivot his focus to the general election while winning 67% of the vote in the Democratic primary against 2016 nominee Peter Jacob and another minor candidate, Goutam Jois.

Hillary Clinton carried the district by 4,139 votes, 48%-47%, against Donald Trump in 2016.  Four years earlier, Mitt Romney won the 7th by 21,033 votes, 53%-47%, against Barack Obama


Map by Ben Kestenbaum for the New Jersey Globe.



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