Republicans expect the race for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district, where Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) will seek a second term next year, is expected to take shape within the next few months.
The front-runner continues to be Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), who has been speaking with Republican leaders and potential donors about a run.
Former U.S. Senate staffer Rosemary Becchi, now a lobbyist on tax policy issues, is also mulling a bid for the GOP nomination.
A Short Hills resident and former Internal Revenue Service attorney, Becchi considered challenging Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton) in the 2018 Republican primary.
Now she’s heading Jersey First, a non-profit group advocating for lower property taxes. Becchi says the group is helping “assembly, freeholder and local” candidates in 2019.
Becchi says she is focused on her non-profit and denies that she is laying the groundwork for a House bid.
“I haven’t made any decisions,” Becchi said. “I’ve had no meetings with anyone. No discussions. I am not really focused on that.”
But five New Jersey Republican insiders, all speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the New Jersey Globe that they have had specific conversations with Becchi about 2020 congressional campaigns.
Republicans say that David Larsen, who challenged Lance in the Republican primary four times, is also interested in running again.
The Tewksbury businessman won 46% against Lance when he ran in 2014.
Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) told the New Jersey Globe in January that he would not rule out running for Congress next year.
Malinowski unseated Lance last year by 16,400 votes (52%-47%) in a district that has 6,224 more Republicans than Democrats. Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump in the 7th by one percentage point in 2016.
He is the first Democrat to win the 7th district seat since Harrison Williams (D-Plainfield) lost to Florence Dwyer (R-Elizabeth) in 1956.
Malinowski has only been in office since January 3, but the high cost of congressional campaigns requires challengers to begin their campaigns early.
In 2018, Malinowski more than doubled the fundraising and spending of Lance. He raised $6,265,579. Lance, a five-term incumbent, raised 2,598,607.
The 50-year-old Kean has been a strong vote-getter in his Union-Somerset-Morris legislative district.
A former aide to 7th district Rep. Bob Franks (R-Warren), Kean sought the Republican nomination for Congress in 2000 and finished second in a four-candidate primary. He lost to Mike Ferguson (R-Warren) by 3,390 votes.
Kean won a State Assembly seat following the death of Alan Augustine (R-Scotch Plains) in 2001 and moved up to the Senate in 2003 after Richard Bagger (R-Westfield) resigned. He won 44% against Bob Menendez in the 2006 U.S. Senate race. After his loss, he ousted Lance as the Senate minority leader.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Becchi’s prior employer — it was the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and that Jersey First, as a 501(c)(4) can support candidates.