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Union Dem chairs say they haven’t settled on Lance opponent

By David Wildstein, January 23 2018 2:22 pm

Seven Democratic municipal chairs from Union County are denying speculation that they have settled on an organization candidate for Congress in the 7th district – a story that falls somewhere between accurate and false.

The chairs – George Devanney of Berkeley Heights, Peter Corvelli of Kenilworth, John Del Sordi of Scotch Plains, Margaret McManus of Winfield, John Salerno of Cranford, Stacey Gunderman of New Providence, and Janice Siegel of Westfield – signed a letter stating that they “have not committed ourselves to a particular candidate at this time, and any rumor to the contrary is incorrect.”

Several candidates have emerged to challenge Rep. Leonard Lance (D-Clinton) in a district that is viewed as competitive if 2018 shapes up to be a strong mid-term election cycle for the Democrats.  The letter refers to an “enormously diverse and talented field.”

One of the candidates, Linda Weber, lives in Berkeley Heights and sources suggest that Devanney has privately agreed to support Tom Malinowski, a former Obama State Department official, despite representations in his letter that he has not.  Weber may be on the path to securing three additional municipal chairs.

Lisa Mandelblatt, who has raised more than $640,000 so far, is counting on Westfield backing her.  But a list of local endorsements released yesterday shows support from two members of the Westfield Council and a former mayor, but not Siegel, the municipal chair.

Some national Democrats seem to be pushing for Tom Malinowski, an Assistant U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration.  He got in late last year and raised $525,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017.  Malinowski has never lived in the district, and his Washington connections don’t necessarily translate to municipal chairman endorsements,

Two other contenders, Goutam Jois and Scott Salmon, are young attorneys who seem to be impressing Democratic leaders – the kind of talent Democrats have been good at developing over the last decade. Peter Jacob, who won 43% against Lance two years ago, is also running again.

The field also includes Dave Pringle, who has spent decades as one of New Jersey’s most prominent grass-roots environmental activists.  But Pringle has a huge target on his back after endorsing Republican Chris Christie for Governor in 2009 against incumbent Jon Corzine.

There are thirteen Union County municipalities in NJ-07.  The municipal chairs will award the line.    The contest is complicated by the absence of the County Chairman, Jerry Green, who has been battling serious health issues, and by a split between a faction aligned with State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union) and another backed by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden).

“The excitement and energy being felt toward this upcoming election is captivating, and we must do everything we can to select the candidate best suited to win in November,” the letter said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that George Devanney, the Berkeley Heights Democratic Chairman, had agreed to back Weber.  That was incorrect and entirely my mistake in misunderstanding the information I was provided.  I regret that.

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