Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean’s congressional campaign kickoff drew many of the seventh district’s top Republicans Monday.
In addition to five of the district’s six county chairs — Warren County Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt, who is also Republican state chairman, did not attend because he was travelling abroad — the event attracted a number of Republican notables, including, among others, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Somerset County Freeholder Pat Walsh and Kean’s father, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean.
A number of the minority leader’s colleagues in the legislature appeared as well.
From his caucus, there were State Sens. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg), Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) and Bob Singer (R-Lakewood).
State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), who has declined to rule out a run for Rep. Tom Malinowski’s congressional seat, did not attend the kickoff.
Only one of Kean’s running mates, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), made it to Monday’s event, though that’s not a sign of discord between Kean and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who was absent because he was travelling out of state.
“Tom will be a tremendous asset in Congress for the residents of the seventh district. He is a smart policymaker who always fights for his constituents,” Bramnick said in a statement shortly after the event’s conclusion. “I support Tom Kean 100%.”
So far, Kean has only one primary opponent, Tom Phillips, a 41-year-old human resources executive from Scotch Plains. Former U.S. Senate staffer Rosemary Becchi has been mentioned as another possible candidate, but with party support going to Kean, it’s not clear if she will choose to mount a bid.
Kean’s party backing may dissuade other potential candidates from mounting a bid, though that wasn’t the case when Democratic chairs in the 11th congressional district announced their support for now-Rep. Mikie Sherrill in early 2018. Four other candidates ended up seeking that nomination, though Sherrill beat her closest competitor by more than 60 points.