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Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Kean qualifies for first round of NRCC ‘Young Guns’ program

GOP Senator seeking second shot at unseating Malinowski

By David Wildstein, October 12 2021 9:29 am

New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. is one of 32 House candidates nationally to qualify for the first level of GOP program that measures the early success of congressional aspirants against a rigid series of benchmarks.

He is seeking a rematch with Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in New Jersey’s 7th district.  He came within one percentage point of unseating Malinowski in 2020.

Kean is the only New Jersey Republican to make the first round of “On the Radar” candidates as part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.  That means he’s met a minimum threshold for campaign organization and had demonstrated some potential in a winnable district.

The designation helps congressional candidates gain access to major donors across the U.S. as Republicans seek to overtake the slim, five-seat Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Later this week, Kean’s early fundraising numbers will become public.   He entered the race in July.

While the Congressional Redistricting Commission has not yet begun formally drawing maps to reflect the 2020 U.S. Census, Malinowski’s seat appears to be the main target of Republicans.

At the same time, Malinowski faces a House Ethics Committee probe over his failure to report personal stock transactions on time.

Three months ago, Malinowski had over $1.4 million cash-on-hand after raising $815,000 in the second quarter of this year.

In 2020, Kean came within 1% of ousting Malinowski 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 also gave Joe Biden a 55%-43% win over Donald Trump in the presidential race.   In 2016, Hillary Clinton won it by one point, 48%-47%, but in 2012, Mitt Romney carried it, 53%-47%.

Malinowski raised $7.4 million last year but spent nearly all of it to defend his seat in a hugely competitive congressional district.

In his 2018 campaign to unseat five-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township), Malinowski raised more than $6.2 million.  He flipped the seat in the mid-term election by 16,200 votes, 52%-47%.

Kean faces a primary challenge from 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Rik Mehta and John Henry Isemann, who have up a career in finance to pursue a congressional run.

Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) has told the New Jersey Globe that he will consider a challenge to Malinowski after the November 2 general election.

In New Hampshire’s 1st district, New Jersey native Matt Mowers also made the NRCC list in his bid to unseat two-term Rep. Christopher Pappas.   Pappas defeated Mowers by a 51%-46% margin in 2020.

A former Trump administration official, Mowers grew up in Bergen County and later worked for Gov. Chris Christie.   He moved to New Hampshire after Christie’s 2013 re-election to become the executive director of the state Republican party.  He later ran Christie’s New Hampshire presidential primary campaign.

Christie headlined a high-dollar fundraiser for Mowers last month in New Jersey.

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