Home>Campaigns>Rallying in Rahway, Malinowski says don’t count him out just yet

Rep. Tom Malinowski, briefly New Jersey's tallest congressman, at a rally in Rahway. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Rallying in Rahway, Malinowski says don’t count him out just yet

Murphy, Booker, and more join congressman with early voting underway

By Joey Fox, October 29 2022 6:42 pm

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) got dealt a tough hand this year.

First, the 7th congressional district he represents was redrawn to be more Republican, reducing Joe Biden’s margin in the district from ten points to four. The map was drawn by Democratic members of the Congressional Redistricting Commission, who evidently decided Malinowski was worth sacrificing in exchange for making other Democratic seats safer.

Then, this fall, national Democrats decided they would for the most part rather spend their money elsewhere, allowing outside Republican groups to outspend their Democratic counterparts by a 4-1 margin. And that’s not to mention Malinowski’s self-inflicted damage from a stock trading disclosure scandal, which remains the subject of a still-unresolved House Ethics Committee investigation.

But whatever his struggles, Malinowski isn’t going down without a fight, and top New Jersey Democrats are willing and able to fight alongside him.

At a get-out-the-vote rally in Rahway today marking the first day of early voting, Malinowski – joined by Gov. Phil Murphy, Senator Cory Booker, and Reps. Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), among many others – urged his supporters to keep up the fight and help Democrats hold New Jersey’s most competitive congressional district.

“Ten months ago, a lot of people were counting us out in this campaign,” Malinowski said. “Nobody’s counting us out now. This is the bellwether race for the House of the Representatives.”

Murphy, whose 2017 gubernatorial win was something of a precursor to Malinowski’s first victory in 2018 over Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton), agreed with that assessment.

“[Malinowski]’s had your back and our back – it’s our job now to have his back and get him re-elected,” Murphy said. “This is a razor, razor, razor-thin election. Don’t let anybody kid you.”

Speakers at the rally were scathing in their criticisms of Malinowski’s Republican opponent, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield). After Kean nearly flipped the 7th district in 2020, Malinowski has ceaselessly hammered the former Union County legislator on abortion, Donald Trump, and the increasingly fringe rhetoric from some members of Kean’s party.

“Most of the voters in my district, the middle-of-the-road voters – they want moderation, not MAGA,” Malinowski said today. “We get to make that choice in this race.”

Watson Coleman was more blunt: “There are two Toms in this race, but there’s only one brain.”

Rahway is new to the 7th district, one of the many changes mapmakers made, meaning that Malinowski has to introduce himself to new voters in the strongly Democratic town. That’s been a key task for both Kean and Malinowski, as well as for other incumbents across the state: make inroads among voters accustomed to voting in entirely different districts. 

At the rally to help Malinowski with that task was Payne, who currently represents Rahway in the 10th district (and whose father represented Rahway for decades before him).

“This town has been represented by a Payne for the last 30 years,” Payne told the assembled crowd. “I’m a little heartbroken that I’m losing you, but you’re getting a hell of a guy in Tom Malinowski.”

Thanks in large part to the new district lines, Malinowski is considered the underdog by most election analysts; Malinowski’s internal polling has shown a tied race, but other polls have found Kean ahead.

Outside Democratic groups haven’t invested in the race the way they have in other top-tier congressional races around the country, which seems to be a sign that they don’t see an easy path to victory in the district. So far, the House Majority PAC has spent around $1.2 million and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added a small amount on top of that, while Republican PACs have walloped Malinowski to the tune of $5.5 million.

But Malinowski – whose own campaign has significantly outraised and outspent Kean’s – said in an interview after the rally that while he’d always appreciate more outside help, he’s accustomed by now to winning races on the strength of his own campaign.

“If you look back over our adventures in New Jersey politics over the last four to five years, I’m here because the people of the 7th district put me there,” Malinowski said. “It was never because [of] the Democratic Party or the powers that be in New Jersey.”

Malinowski added that today’s rally showed that New Jersey Democrats are invested in holding the 7th district, as are the district’s own Democratic voters.

“What we saw today was that the party is rallying around us,” he said. “But it’s the people rallying around us who are the reason why I’m here and still standing.”

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