Home>Campaigns>Malinowski on the attack at 7th district debate; Kean focuses on inflation, Pelosi

The New Jersey Globe 7th congressional district debate. (Photo: New Jersey Globe via YouTube).

Malinowski on the attack at 7th district debate; Kean focuses on inflation, Pelosi

7th district contest is New Jersey’s most competitive, with potential national implications

By Joey Fox, October 16 2022 11:39 pm

The two competitors for New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and former State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), got equal speaking time at tonight’s New Jersey Globe-hosted debate.

But much of the debate was defined by Malinowski, who lobbed repeated attacks at his opponent and fiercely defended his own legislative record; Kean maintained a more muted presence, largely focusing on a few core themes like inflation and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Malinowski and Kean previously faced each other in 2020, a contest Malinowski won by around one percentage point. Malinowski is generally regarded as an underdog for re-election this year, thanks in large part to new district lines that shifted his seat more Republican.

Despite the tough road ahead – or perhaps because of it – Malinowski firmly stood with the legislation passed by Democrats in Congress, saying at tonight’s debate that bills like the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act will help ease the burden of inflation.

“What we did was to bring back jobs and consumer spending from a moment in time when tens of millions of Americans were unemployed, when virtually every small business in the communities I represent was shut down, when our economic future looked incredibly bleak,” Malinowski said. “We are actually doing something about this.”

Malinowski challenged Kean to say what his solution would be, saying that his opponent has only “run on the problem, not the solution.” Kean responded simply that he’d lower spending and that Malinowski’s votes have exacerbated inflation.

“Tom Malinowski voted for the very spending bills – as you hear here, he has no apologies at all for voting for the spending bills – that … actually make the problem worse,” Kean said. “I will break the back of inflation. We, first and foremost, need to responsibly control spending.”

On the issue of abortion, another key topic since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Kean said that he’s pro-choice, repeating the position he’s staked out in recent weeks: support for abortion up to the 20th week after conception, with exceptions for rape, incest, and life and health of the mother after that point.

“I support a woman’s right to choose, and I have a 20-year career in the state legislature reflecting that fact,” Kean said. “This is an issue that is now best handled at the state level. I would oppose a national ban on abortion.”

But Malinowski hit Kean on other parts of his record, including his vote against the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act as a state senator and language on his campaign website promising to defend the “sanctity of life.”

“Tom Kean Jr. wants to ban abortion, with exceptions that protect the political life of Tom Kean Jr.,” Malinowski said.

In spite of the national prominence and importance of inflation and abortion, it was another issue entirely that featured the most heated exchange between the candidates: the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap, which increases the tax burden on many higher-income New Jerseyans. 

Malinowski and Kean have each said they urgently want the SALT cap repealed. And thanks to the specific history of the cap – Republicans were the ones to implement it when they controlled Congress in 2017, but Democrats have been unable to repeal it despite many representatives promising to do so – both candidates could claim the upper hand on the issue.

“[Malinowski] said he would never vote for the reconciliation bill if it didn’t include the SALT deduction,” Kean said. “He gave away his vote because Nancy Pelosi knows that he’s the most reliable vote in the House delegation in New Jersey.”

“Your party, sir, is 100% opposed to this,” Malinowski responded. “If your party is in charge of the House, they will never even put a bill to a vote in the House of Representatives to restore the SALT deduction… They don’t care what you think, any more than they cared about my decent Republican predecessor, Leonard Lance, who tried to do what you’re saying you will do and failed – they will do what they want.”

Also a source of contention was Donald Trump and the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Kean was explicit in disavowing the Capitol attackers and said unequivocally that Joe Biden is the rightful winner of the 2020 election, but hedged when asked directly if he agrees with his father, former Gov. Tom Kean Sr., that Trump is unfit to serve as president.

“I think that the people in this district are focused on the economy and inflation,” Kean said. “Right now, we’ve got to get through this year’s election cycle.”

Malinowski, as he did many times throughout the debate, called out Kean for failing to directly address the question.

“I think we can see here who’s willing to look people in the eye and answer their questions, and who is evading things that they simply don’t want to answer,” he said. “[Kean] doesn’t want to offend the MAGA crowd, he doesn’t want to defend moderates in his party, so he just runs away from the question.”

However large Trump loomed in the debate, Nancy Pelosi loomed larger. Pelosi has been a bogeyman haunting Democrats for years, and Kean tied Malinowski to the Democratic leader, repeatedly using a line common to election season: that Malinowski has voted with Pelosi “100% of the time”. 

But although Malinowski said it’s time for Pelosi to make way for new leadership after this term, he stood behind the House Speaker against Kean’s attacks.

“Obviously he’s been trained to say ‘Nancy Pelosi’ 100 times in this debate; let me just say this,” Malinowski said. “On January 6, Nancy Pelosi defended the Capitol and the Constitution. You are afraid of the people who tried to shred the Capitol and our Constitution. So I would say Nancy Pelosi has a lot more balls than Tom Kean Jr.”

Malinowski also addressed another important issue in the race: his stock trading, which is the subject of a still-ongoing inquiry from the House Ethics Committee.

“I’ve gone above and beyond what the law requires,” Malinowski said of his own actions since the inquiry began. “I’m now one of only ten members of the House and Senate that’s put my entire retirement savings in a fully blind trust, so I don’t know what my investments are.”

“This is not about stocks, this is about ethics,” Kean responded. “My opponent violated the law that’s supposed to stop members of Congress from insider trading 145 times.”

In his closing statement, Malinowski called himself the only candidate who would serve as an independent voice for the 7th district and accused Kean of running for Congress for his own interests.

“I want to go to Congress because I want to do something; Senator Kean wants to go to Congress because he wants to be something,” Malinowski said. “It’s clear only one of us is going to stand up to extremism, whether it’s coming from the far right or the far left – who’s willing to look you in the eye and say, ‘I will oppose a leader of my party who takes us in a dangerous direction.’”

Kean, meanwhile, closed out the debate with a rerun of his top themes: the pain of inflation, the specter of Nancy Pelosi, and his own legislative record.

“Tom Malinowski listens to Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time,” he said. “Tonight, I am asking for your vote so that we can send an individual down to Washington D.C. who can actually solve the problems, reach across party lines, and address the issues that many Americans are concerned about today.”


This story was updated at 12:18 a.m. on October 17 with additional quotes from the candidates on Rep. Malinowski’s stock trading. 

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