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Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

NJ-7 listed as toss-up in initial Cook Political Report ratings

No other N.J. district put in competitive category

By Joey Fox, February 02 2023 11:05 am

New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, a top swing district that ousted former Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) last year in favor of now-Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), is rated as a Toss Up in the Cook Political Report’s initial 2024 House ratings released today.

Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report’s House analyst, doesn’t consider any other New Jersey House seat to be competitive this year, at least for now. The Senate seat held by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is also rated as Solid Democrat to begin the cycle.

In the 2021 congressional redistricting process, Democratic mapmakers aimed to give nine of New Jersey’s Democratic House members safe or near-safe seats while sacrificing Malinowski, giving the two-term congressman a more Republican seat than the one he had previously represented.

Because of the changes wrought by redistricting, Wasserman and other election prognosticators widely considered Malinowski to be the underdog against Kean, rating the race as Lean Republican throughout the cycle. Kean ended up winning by a relatively modest three-point margin, and now faced with running in a presidential year in his Biden +4 seat, he’ll have to fight hard to keep the district in the Republican column.

Democrats are still in the early stages of determining who could challenge Kean next year. One possibility is Malinowski himself, but a number of other compelling Democratic candidates live in or near the boundaries of the 7th district.

Cook regarded two other New Jersey districts as competitive last year: Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown)’s 3rd district, rated as Lean Democrat, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff)’s 5th district, rated as Likely Democrat. But aided by favorable district lines, Kim and Gottheimer prevailed easily, winning by 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Given those margins, Republicans probably won’t be able to put up much of a fight this year against either incumbent – or against Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), who won by an astonishing 19-point margin last year. And Democrats aren’t too optimistic about unseating Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) after he, too, won by 19 points.

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