Two congressmen-elect from New Jersey — one the son of a United States Senator, the other the son of a former Governor — will make their way to the nation’s capital on Sunday to begin their freshmen orientation as new members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Robert J. Menendez, a Democrat, and Thomas H. Kean, Jr., a Republican, were elected to Congress in Tuesday’s general election. Menendez, 37, is the son of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez. The 54-year-old Kean’s father is Thomas H. Kean, a former Assembly Speaker and the state’s governor from 1982 to 1990. They have a long list of things they need to accomplish, besides learning the basics of how Congress operates. Kean had an edge on this — in the 1990s, he worked as a legislative assistant to one of his predecessors, Rep. Bob Franks (R-New Providence). The two freshmen have a lot on their plates. They need to hire staff, find apartments, lobby for committee assignments, and decide how they’ll vote in contested leadership races. Kean is a strong supporter of Kevin McCarthy for speaker; he’s also presumed to be in Tom Emmer’s corner for majority whip, assuming expectations hold, and Republicans take the House. The two congressmen-elect will also have to compete in a lottery to determine the location of their congressional office for the next two years. That’s a big deal in a complex where some offices are significantly different. Reminiscent of a college housing lottery to pick dorm rooms, each freshman House member draws a number; this is done without regard for party affiliation. Menendez could take a look at 1531 Longworth, the suite occupied by his father during his first term in the House in 1993. It’s now occupied by a first-term Republican from Texas who might be looking for an upgrade. Kean doesn’t have a clear legacy office: the 1518 Longworth suite where his grandfather, Robert W. Kean (R-Livingston), worked during his first term in 1939, appears to have been reconfigured and it’s longer one of the offices available. Another option for Kean is 429 Cannon, which was used by Franks during his first term in Congress in 1993. Washington office land line telephone numbers remain with the congressional district: Menendez’s phone number will be the one now used by Albio Sires (D-West New York) and from 1993 to 2006, by his father. Kean will inherit the phone number of the incumbent he ousted, Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes). Malinowski’s phone number is the same one used by his predecessors: Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township), Mike Ferguson (R-Warren), Franks, Matthew Rinaldo (R-Union), and Florence Dwyer (R-Elizabeth).
Menendez is expected to resign his seat on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after his final meeting in December. Kean did not seek re-election to the New Jersey State Senate in 2021 — he was the longest-serving minority leader in state history — in order to focus on his congressional campaign. Menendez and Kean don’t know each other well, and it’s not clear if they’ll become close friends, even though both pledged a spirit of bipartisan cooperation during their campaigns. That depends how deep the wounds of Kean’s 2006 U.S. Senate campaign against Menendez’s father are.