Second term Democrat Tom Malinowski, in trouble for an insider trading scandal, was left bleeding on the side of the road by his own party. When the redistricting was completed, Josh Gottheimer's district went from even to D+7, Mikie Sherrill's district went from D+1 to D+11, Andy Kim's district went from R+5 to D+9, but Malinowski's district essentially got a welcome sign from the Democrat-controlled state legislature to the GOP-- from D+4 to R+3.
In the 2018 blue wave election, he ousted GOP incumbent Leonard Lance 166,985 (51.7%) to 150,785 (46.7%). In 2020 he was challenged by Thomas Keene, Jr. and it was much tighter. Biden beat Trump in the district 54.2% to 44.4% but Malinowski barely scraped through-- 50.6% to 49.4%. Malinowski is both a New Dem and a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. He's not the worst member of either caucus and his lifetime ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is a low B. He'll breeze to an easy primary win today against Roger Bacon, who raised no money. Malinowski has already spent $1,453,819 on the race and has another $3,642,716 in his campaign kitty.
Of the 7 Republicans running for their party's nomination, 4 have raised over $100,000:
Tom Keane- $2,219,846
Phil Rizzo- $227,947
Rik Mehta- $155,995
John Isemann- $116,789
This morning, the NY Times looked at the drama involved in the GOP primary that should be a walk in the park for Keane-- but isn't. Keep in mind that Malinowski's only reactance of winning in November would be if one of the fascists in the primary beats him tonight. He has refused to debate them-- nor will he engage with reporters. "And," wrote Tracey Tully, "he has dodged questions about whether he agrees with the Republican National Committee’s characterization of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.”
Kean, the scion of a storied political family, has adopted what appears to be a core strategy as he tries to avoid alienating moderate swing voters while facing challengers from the right: to keep his mouth, basically, shut.
“I’m calling it the vow of silence,” said Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
Whether the political calculation works or not, the results of Tuesday’s primary are likely to be seen as a measure of Trump’s grip on the GOP in a state better known for a moderate brand of Republican politics once epitomized by leaders like Kean’s father, a popular two-term governor.
Most of Kean’s six primary opponents have tried to dent his credentials as a conservative as they compete for the attention of voters loyal to Trump.
One opponent, State Assemblyman Erik Peterson, a leader among Republican lawmakers who staged a public challenge to a State House Covid-19 vaccine mandate, said Kean had “never been a conservative until this race.” Another, Phil Rizzo, a former evangelical Christian pastor who has promoted Trump’s claims of voter fraud and said he remained unconvinced of President Biden’s victory, has highlighted what he calls Kean’s “liberal voting record.”
A former state assemblyman and senator, Kean, 53, has the institutional support of county and state leaders and a prime spot on ballots. The large field of candidates is expected to splinter the conservative vote, benefiting Kean, who has raised nine times as much campaign cash as his next closest opponent, Rizzo.
The state's biggest newspaper, the Star-Ledger ran an editorial called Kean New Jersey's cowering candidate for Congress, noting that "he apparently believes that he can still dodge questions, remain silent, run on his surname, and avoid the choice that elected officials from the Republican party must make between upholding democracy or sanctioning 'discourse' that involves mob violence and death. For a week, Kean has repeatedly been asked for his response to the Republican National Committee’s pronouncement that the Jan. 6 riot represented 'legitimate political discourse,' and he has refused to return a call or summon the political courage to untie his tongue. It isn’t a difficult choice, but the candidate for Congress from New Jersey’s 7th District still seems to fear the wrath of the MAGA crowd if he picks wrong."
My prediction: Kean wins easily tonight-- and slightly less easily in November.