Two years ago, former Clinton White House speechwriter Josh Gottheimer mounted a successful challenge to seven-term GOP Rep. Scott Garrett. Now two members of the Barack Obama’s administration, Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim, are looking to take on Republican Congressmen.
Malinowski, 52, served as Assistant U.S. Secretary of State from 2014 to 2017. He wants to take on Rep. Leonard Lance in the seventh district. The 35-year-old Kim was the White House National Security Council Director for Iraq, and worked for the Departments of State and Defense. Both are New Jersey natives and Rhodes scholars.
Taking the Gottheimer route is not uncommon: Bob Torricelli worked for Vice President Walter Mondale and managed Jimmy Carter’s Illinois campaign against Ted Kennedy in the 1980 Democratic primary; and Andy Maguire (Gottheimer’s Democratic predecessor) worked for Lyndon Johnson at the Department of State and at the United Nations.
White House aides don’t always win.
In 1970, when Democrat Jim Howard held the very Republican Monmouth-based House seat, the GOP candidate was Bill Dowd, a 26-year-old former White House staffer for the still-popular Richard Nixon. Howard won 55%-43%. Dowd ran again in 1972, and with Nixon winning 67% in his district, he held Howard to a 53% win. Dowd was getting ready to run again in 1974, but amidst the Watergate scandal, he didn’t bother. Howard won with 69%.
Fred Bohen, a former White House staffer under LBJ, won just 38% against Peter Frelinghuysen in 1972. He ran again in the Watergate year after Frelinghuysen retired, and lost by ten points against Millicent Fenwick.
One quick personal story about administration officials running for office: while working as the Executive Director of Assembly Republican Majority in 1987, Roger Stone suggested that I go down to Washington to meet with a young Reagan administration staffer who was working for the Secretary of the Interior. The GOP was trying to recruit him to run for an open Assembly seat. That was Joe Kyrillos, who returned to New Jersey to run for the State Assembly and will retire in a couple of weeks after thirty years in the New Jersey legislature.