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The New Jersey Globe projects that Rep. Tom Malinowski will win re-election to a second term in Congress from New Jersey's 7th district.

Malinowski defeats Kean in close race

New Jersey Globe projects Democrat will win 7th district contest

By David Wildstein, November 17 2020 8:01 pm

The New Jersey Globe is now projecting that Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) has been re-elected to a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a race that has become excruciatingly tight since election night, Republican Thomas Kean, Jr. has no apparent path to overtake Malinowski’s lead in New Jersey’s 7th district.

Kean would need to capture around 70% of the remaining votes to overtake Malinowski, who increased his lead on Tuesday evening to 4,941.

Union County today counted 1,216 additional ballots, with Malinowski winning 60% of those votes.

Malinowski now leads Kean, 213,154 to 208,213, 50.6% to 49.4%.

While Malinowski claimed victory on November 4, Kean has not conceded the election.

“Votes are still being counted, and the campaign expects to make an announcement later this week,” said Harrison Neely, a spokesman for the Kean campaign.

It’s still not clear if Kean will seek a recount in a massive turnout race, where more than 80% of eligible voters cast their votes in the general election.  The deadline to file for a recount is November 20.

The race between Malinowski and Kean, which essentially began two years ago when Democrats flipped the 7th district seat, turned out to be a nail-biter.

Malinowski was 28,412 votes ahead of Kean on election night, 53.3% to 46.7%,  but watched his plurality dwindle over the next ten days.

By the Sunday after the election, Malinowski’s lead had dropped to 17,221, then to 14,405 on Monday, 11,498 on Tuesday, 10,751 on Wednesday, 5,496 on Thursday, and 4,339 on Friday.

But the bleeding stopped this weekend, with Malinowski marginally gaining votes on Kean at a time the Republican challenger needed to be going in another direction.

Kean narrowed the race by just 19 votes after the Morris tally on Tuesday.  The Senate Minority Leader won 51.6% of the 581 newly-counted Morris votes, slightly below his 53.3% tally in the mostly Republican county.

Morris has counted virtually all of their votes, except for some cure letters that must arrive by tomorrow and some scattered provisional ballots.

Throughout the last two weeks, there has been little clarity in the total number of uncounted ballots.

Somerset has an indeterminate number of votes remaining to be counted.  The countywide estimate is about 12,000 to 13,000, but a chunk of them are from the next-door 12th district and not all ballots will be counted.

There are still about 2,500 votes remaining in Hunterdon and an estimated 500 to 1,100 in Warren that will be counted on Thursday.  About 500 provisional ballots in Millburn, the lone Essex municipality in the 7th, will be counted tomorrow.

Both campaigns have been chasing an unspecified number cure letters to repair ballot defects.  The deadline for that is tomorrow.

This is the first 2020 call of the 7th district race by the New Jersey Globe, which was first to project Malinowski’s victory over five-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) in 2018.

The Associated Press had called the race for Malinowski on election night without knowing how many votes remained uncounted and how where they came from.  Since then, more than 155,00 more votes have been counted.

As the race tightened, the New York Times pulled back its call of the 7th district race.

The 7th district had been held by Republicans from 1956 until Malinowski ousted Lance two years ago by 16,200 votes, 51.7% to 46.7%.  Malinowski is now the first Democrat to win re-election in the district since 1954, and the first to win two full terms since Rep. William E. Tuttle, Jr. (D-Westfield) was re-elected in 1912.

Malinowski, 55, grew up in Princeton – his stepfather had managed Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign and his aunt, Anne Martindell, had served as a New Jersey State Senator.  In high school, he interned for U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.

He served on U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s staff, worked as a speechwriter for U.S. Secretary of States Warren Christopher and Madeline Albright, and served in Bill Clinton’s White House as a senior director of the National Security Council. From 2001 to 2013, Malinowski was the Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

President Barack Obama nominated Malinowski to serve as Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Human Right in 2013 and held that post until the end of the Obama presidency.

The 51-year-old Kean comes from one of New Jersey’s oldest political families.  His father was a popular two-term governor, his grandfather spent 20 years in Congress, and his great-grandfather and great-great uncle served in the United States Senate.

Elected to the State Assembly in 2001 and the State Senate in 2003, Kean has been the Minority Leader of the State Senate since 2008. He ran for Congress in 2000 and for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Kean is no stranger to close races and recounts.

It took 19 days for his father, Thomas H. Kean, then the Assembly Minority Leader and former Speaker, to learn the fate of his own 1974 campaign for the Republican congressional nomination in a district that included parts of the current 7th.

Kean lost by just 83 votes to Millicent Fenwick, a former assemblywoman and state consumer affairs director.

His father was elected Governor of New Jersey in 1981 by just 1,797 votes statewide, 49.46% to 49.38%, after an arduous recount that took 28 days.

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