Altman Sees Kean ‘Chipping Away’ at Abortion Rights

LAMBERTVILLE – Last week, CD-7 Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr. posted the following:

“I commend the passage of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. This critical legislation reinforces our commitment to national security, provides necessary resources for our armed forces and supports our military personnel and families. I am proud to be part of the bipartisan coalition that came together to prioritize our nation’s defense capabilities and ensure a strong and secure future for America.”

It’s not really that simple.

Prior to the vote referenced above, the House also voted on various amendments to the bill, including one to reverse the Pentagon’s post-Roe policy of reimbursing women service members who need to travel to another state to receive abortion services.

Kean voted “yes” on that as well.

So did the state’s other two Republicans in the House, Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew. All nine House Democrats from New Jersey voted “no.”

While Kean’s “yes” vote was in line with virtually all other House Republicans, it comes from a man who has at times called himself “pro-choice” in regard to abortion rights.

Democrat Sue Altman is paying attention.

“This stuff is going to come back to haunt him,” she said in a conversation Monday morning.

Altman already has announced plans to challenge Kean next year. And she seems to be off to a good start; having raised about $217,000 in the first month of her campaign.

The 7th District, which ranges over six counties in the western part of the state is by New Jersey standards, fairly rural. It also became more Republican leaning after the 2020 Census, which certainly helped Kean defeat four-year incumbent Tom Malinowski by about 9,000 votes last November.

Still, CD-7 has been a battleground district since 2018 and that’s unlikely to change next year.

Altman said last year’s redistricting was disruptive and that some voters in the district’s new towns didn’t know they were in the 7th. That’s not surprising, given the fact many people do not follow politics that closely.

This time around, Altman says she has more time to travel around the district and if nothing else, make sure everyone knows the new map.

Abortion rights most likely helped Democrats do better than conventional wisdom suggested in last year’s midterms and that issue is not going away.

In travelling the district, Altman says she finds women of various political persuasions frustrated and scared about the future.

She says Kean by his recent vote is “chipping away” at women’s rights.

The amendment in question to the defense act is not likely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But that may not be the point. The House action plus the passage of state abortion bans after six weeks – most recently in Iowa – fuels the narrative that Republicans are indifferent, if not hostile, to women’s rights. Expect this to be a major issue next year.

As both a candidate and now a congressman, Kean has been reluctant to interact with the press and public other than staged events. A telephone “town hall” he had a few weeks ago was noteworthy for producing no tough questions for the congressman.

Altman certainly knows that.

“That’s not something that should be blown over,” she said. “If you’re an incumbent and you’re not holding public events … that’s a malfunction of democracy. People are very sensitive to that.”

Fair point, but Kean’s style didn’t prevent him from winning last year.

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