Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) formally launched his run for New Jersey’s 7th congressional district today, several weeks after the New Jersey Globe first reported that Peterson intended to seek the Republican nomination in the district.
Anticipating a potentially grueling primary election battle against former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), a right-of-center Republican who narrowly lost his 2020 run for the district, Peterson’s announcement video made sure to highlight his own staunchly conservative history in the legislature.
“I have the best Republican voting record of anybody in this congressional race,” he said. “If you vote for me, I can assure you of one thing: I will never sell you out, I will always vote like a Republican should vote, and I will stand up for you no matter what consequences.”
Peterson added in a separate interview that he sees Kean as someone who has sold his Republican supporters on false promises of conservatism.
“Senator Kean is an establishment Republican who will do whatever the establishment tells him to do,” Peterson said. “That’s how he’s raising his money, that’s where all his support comes from. He won’t stand up for the Republican values if he’s put under pressure… He has a very liberal voting record, and that’s not what the Republican Party wants.”
In addition to Kean, Peterson will also face 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo and businessman John Henry Isemann in the Republican primary. If he wins that contest, he’ll go on to the general election against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), whom Peterson described as “a progressive liberal who is out of touch with the people of this district.”
After losing to Malinowski by around one percentage point in 2020, Kean’s 2022 rematch bid quickly gained traction among both state and national Republicans; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has endorsed him, as has nearly every countywide official in Peterson’s home of Hunterdon County.
That means it may be difficult for Peterson to gain the support of the district’s six county Republican party organizations, which will determine who gets a favorable position on their county’s primary ballots. But Peterson said that, even if the county organizations decline to support him, he’ll continue his campaign.
“I expect to win the county line in my home county and elsewhere, but if that’s not the case, that’s not going to prevent me from running,” he said. “I won’t be deterred by whatever happens with the county lines.”