Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) raised over $500,000 during the first three months of his campaign for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district.
Kean announced his bid to challenge freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) on April 16.
“I am humbled by the support I have received from so many families in North Jersey,” said Kean. “Congress is headed in the wrong direction and it is time we send our New Jersey values to Washington, not accept Washington values in New Jersey. Thank you to all of you who believe in our mission. We have stood together through good and difficult times, and if we continue to stand together, we will take back the 7th Congressional District.”
Kean, 50, is widely viewed as a top-tier challenger to Malinowski, a former assistant U.S. Secretary of State who ousted five-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton) last year.
The son of a popular former governor, Kean is a proven vote-getter in his own right. He has won six races for the New Jersey Legislature by wide margins in a district that has become increasingly more Democratic and has been through a tough campaign as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006.
Republicans view Malinowski as a top target next year as they seek to regain control of the House.
In a poll released last week by the National Republican Congressional Committee, an unknown Republican later identified as Kean leads Malinowski 44%-42% — a statistically insignificant 2% margin.
Malinowski remains largely unknown to most voters, according to the NRCC poll. The new congressman has favorables of 29%-16%, with 54% of voters saying they haven’t heard of him, or still don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.
In the first quarter of 2019, Malinowski raised $562,384 and had $548,375 cash-on-hand, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Malinowski had the biggest fundraising haul of the state’s four freshman Democratic House members.
There are 4,985 more Republicans than Democrats in the 7th, which supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election by a 48%-47% margin – a 4,139-vote plurality.
Malinowski beat Lance by 16,400 votes (52%-47%), becoming the first Democrat to win the 7th district seat since 1956.
As a first-time candidate, Malinowski raised nearly $6.3 million – more than double what Lance raised.
Kean raised nearly $7.9 million when he ran statewide twelve years ago.
Kean is the front runner for the GOP congressional nomination but won’t necessarily clear the field in the GOP primary.
Rosemary Becchi, a Washington lobbyist and former U.S. Senate tax counsel, is mulling a run.
Tom Philips, a 41-year-old human resources executive from Scotch Plains, was the first candidate to enter the race.
At age 32, Kean sought the Republican nomination for Congress in 2000 when Rep. Bob Franks (R-Warren) gave up his seat to run for U.S. Senate. He finished second in the GOP primary, losing to Mike Ferguson (R-Warren) by 3,390 votes in a four-candidate field.
He won a special election convention for an open Assembly seat in 2001, following the death of Alan Augustine (R-Scotch Plains). He held the seat that year with a 15,724-vote margin against Westfield mayor Tom Jardim.
Kean moved up to the Senate in 2003 after Richard Bagger (R-Westfield) resigned. He won a full-term that fall with 67% of the vote.
In 2006, Kean ran for the United States Senate. He won 76% in the Republican primary against conservative activist John Ginty and faced incumbent Bob Menendez in the general election. Menendez had been appointed to the Senate earlier that year to replace Jon Corzine, who gave up his seat to become governor.
Menendez won by a 53%-44% margin, a margin of 203,068 votes. Kean carried the municipalities that now make up the 7th district.
The following year, Kean challenged Lance for Senate Minority Leader and won.