Former U.S. Senate candidate Rik Mehta will seek the Republican nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district in 2022 against two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes).
That sets up a potential Republican primary between Mehta and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield).
“The people of New Jersey are tired of failed leadership and they’re tired of losing,” said Mehta, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official. “I cannot sit around and watch as small businesses are crippled, COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our most vulnerable and people are fleeing the state at record numbers.”
Kean came within 5,311 votes, 50.6% to 49.4%, of unseating Malinowski in 2020.
Republican leaders say that Kean is considering a rematch with Malinowski in next year’s mid-term congressional election. Kean has not yet announced his plans, which could include not seeking re-election to a seventh term in the State Senate.
Mehta, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official, challenged Cory Booker for the U.S. Senate. Booker won by 724,126 votes, 57%-41%.
Record voter turnout in the 2020 general election caused Booker to become the highest vote-getter for statewide office in New Jersey history. At the same time, Mehta received more votes than any other Republican statewide candidate in history after breaking a record set by U.S. Senator Clifford P. Case in 1972.
Mehta received 1,817,052 in his race against Booker, a vote total that outperformed Republican statewide victors like former governors Chris Christie, Christine Todd Whitman, and Thomas H. Kean.
“I’ve been speaking to many who supported my U.S. Senate run which garnered over 1.8 million votes, a record number that showed people really want change and they want us to continue our mission to Save Small Business and fix New Jersey,” said Mehta. “I’m running for Congress because I know we will win, we will take back the house and take back our state. I’m ready to take the fight to Washington. I won’t stop until I make NJ a place, to live not leave.”
While Kean lost the House race by a narrow one percent margin, Booker beat Mehta in the 7th district by nine points, 54%-45%.
In the presidential election, Joe Biden carried the 7th by 12 points against Donald Trump, 55%-43%.
Kean outpolled Mehta in every municipality in the 7th and received more votes that Trump everywhere but in Dover Township.
Mehta lives in Chester.