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Kean will run for Congress in 2022 in rematch against Malinowski

Senate Minority Leader came within one percentage point of ousting Democratic incumbent last year

By David Wildstein, July 01 2021 1:13 pm

Tom Kean, Jr. will seek the Republican nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district next year, setting up a widely-anticipated rematch of his 2020 bid to unseat Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes).

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Kean, the minority leader of the New Jersey State Senate, began making phone calls to key GOP officials on Thursday afternoon informing them of his decision to run, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

He will formally announce his candidacy on July 14.  A spokesman for Kean had no comment on the calls.

The 52-year-old Kean came within 1% of ousting Malinowski last year in a race that saw the incumbent’s lead narrow from 28,412 on election night to 5,311, 50.6%-49.4%  – the closest race for any House Democrat in the nation and one that was not decided for two weeks.

The same district that nearly elected a Republican congressman also gave Joe Biden a 55%-43% win over Donald Trump in the presidential race.

Republicans need to flip five seats to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022.

So far, Malinowski has had a rough second term after his failure to disclose more than 100 stock trades became a national news story and led to a complaint filed with the House Ethics Committee.

He is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House in Biden’s mid-term elections.

Still, Malinowski posted strong 1st quarter fundraising numbers, raising $923,020 in the first three months of 2021.  He has not yet announced his 2nd quarter haul.

The two-term congressman also saw some success as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with the Biden administration getting behind funding for the Gateway Tunnel project.

The son of a popular former governor, Kean signaled his interest in another congressional run in February when he announced that he would not seek re-election to the State Senate seat he’s held since 2003.

Entering the race in July will allow Kean to post fundraising numbers for the next two quarters while the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission redraws twelve House districts for next year’s election.

As Senate Minority Leader, Kean was able to directly appoint two of the six Republicans on the panel.  The other four seats were filled by Kean allies: Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who is seeking Kean’s open Senate seat, and former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt.

Kean’s top political advisor, Harrison Neely, is the executive director of the map-drawing commission for the Republicans.

David Wasserman, the U.S. House editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report, suggested in May that Democrats could trade a relatively safe Republican 7th district seat in exchange for Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) strengthening their hold on districts that arguably lean Republican.

The “stock scandal…could make it easier for NJ’s redistricting commission throw him under the bus,” Wasserman said on Twitter.

Kean will become the second Republican to formally announce his candidacy in the 7th district.  Rik Mehta, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official who ran for U.S. Senate against Cory Booker last year, is already seeking to take on Malinowski.

Phil Rizzo, a real estate developer-turned-pastor who sought the GOP nomination for governor last month, is also considered a potential candidate.

Malinowski, 55, served as Assistant U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration.  He challenged five-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) in 2018 and won by 16,100 votes in the Trump mid-term election.

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