Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) is the favorite for re-election, albeit a slight one, in initial House ratings released this morning by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a leading national elections forecaster. His district, the 7th, is the only New Jersey district that the Crystal Ball considers competitive at all, at least for now.
“We gave the benefit of the doubt to a handful of incumbents,” among them Kean, Crystal Ball managing editor Kyle Konidk wrote in his summary of the House playing field. “[Kean] will likely have to create some distance between [himself] and the GOP presidential nominee in [his] blue-trending district.”
A former Republican leader in the New Jersey State Senate, Kean is currently in his second month in Congress after unseating Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) last year 51%-49%. Malinowski had previously beaten Kean in 2020, but New Jersey’s redrawn House map, which made the 7th district much more Republican, proved too much for him to overcome.
The Democratic field to take on Kean is still in its early stages. A Malinowski comeback is very much a possibility, and a number of other Central Jersey politicians are also interested.
Whoever ultimately gets the Democratic nod will be in for a competitive general election fight – perhaps the only one in New Jersey this year.
The Crystal Ball considers every other incumbent in the state to be safe for now, including Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), all of whom have faced at least one tough election in recent cycles. That’s largely due to the state’s congressional map, which in exchange for making the 7th district more Republican turned every other district in the state into a safe or near-safe seat.
That’s a viewpoint shared by the Cook Political Report, another top prognosticator that also lists every district but the 7th as uncompetitive. But Cook’s Dave Wasserman sees Kean as more immediately vulnerable, putting him in the Toss Up category from the outset.