Home>Campaigns>Peterson, Isemann endorse Kean for Congress

Assemblyman Erik Peterson at an anti-vaxx rally on December 20, 2021. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Peterson, Isemann endorse Kean for Congress

Primary opponents pledge help to oust Malinowski

By David Wildstein, June 09 2022 12:06 pm

Republicans have begun to come together after the congressional primary in New Jersey’s 7th district, with two unsuccessful candidates quickly endorsing the winner, former Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. in his bid to unseat Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes).

“The race is over, and we come together to focus on helping our teammates strive and succeed at the next level,” said Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin), who perhaps the most conservative candidate in the field.  “There is nothing more important than beating Tom Malinowski and all Democrats on the ballot in November.  I will do my part to help Tom Kean, Jr. win.”

Another contender, John Henry Isemann, said that he was “excited to see this seat flipped, eager to support, and encouraging everyone who was behind us to do the same this fall.”

But Kean does not appear to have the backing of Phil Rizzo, who spent much of the campaign condemning the front-runner.  Early Wednesday morning, just hours after the race was called, Rizzo posted a video of his attacks on Kean on his social media pages.

Peterson compared the sometimes fractious GOP primary to his experiences as a collegiate swimmer sometimes competing against friends and teammates.

“When race time came, my focus was winning the race, but – win or lose – when the race was over,  we were once again friends and teammates.  That competition made us work harder, improve our focus, and enhance our skillsets,” he said.  “ But after the heat of the competition, we were a team.”

Malinowski’s re-election campaign says they are running on all cylinders in a rematch with Kean, who came within one percentage point of winning two years ago.

“Trust fund Tom Kean Jr. expects this race to be handed to him,” said Naree Ketudat. Malinowski’s communications director.   “While he hides in his basement pursuing his ‘strategy of silence,’ our campaign is out here every day doing the work. Tom Kean Jr. doesn’t know what hard work is.”

Kean leads the seven-candidate field with 45.6% of the vote, followed by Rizzo with 23.7% and Peterson with 15.4%.  Fredon Mayor John Flora finished fourth with 5.5% and Isemann finished fifth with 4.8%.  Kevin Dorlan received 4.1% and Sterling Irwin Schwab came in least with less than one percent.

Rizzo’s 24% mirrored the 26% he received in the 2021 Republican gubernatorial primary.

The margin of Kean’s victory – 22 percentage points and a 11,464-vote plurality over the second place finisher,  is actually better than other GOP congressional candidates who have gone on to win the 7th district seat in the past.

Leonard Lance, a state senator from Hunterdon County, won the 2008 GOP primary for an open seat with 39% of the vote in a seven-candidate race.  He defeated Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, by 20 points ad 5,042 votes.

In 2000, Michael Ferguson (R-Warren) won 41% in the NJ-7 Republican primary, defeating Kean (28%) by 3,390 votes.   Assemblyman Joel Weingarten came in third with 17%, followed by Patrick Morrisey with 8%.  Morrisey later moved to West Virginia where he was elected attorney general three times and won 46% as the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate against Joe Manchin in 2018.

In 1938, Kean’s grandfather, Robert W. Kean (R-Livingston), won Republican primary for Congress in Essex County by just 713 votes, 45%-43%, against Montclair Commissioner Dallas Townsend in a field of six candidates.  In the general election, Kean defeated an incumbent, Rep. Frank Towey (D-Caldwell), by 12,118 votes, 55%-41%.

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