CD-7 Crunch Time: Lance Hits the Doors in Volatile Mountainside

MOUNTAINSIDE – Running in the battleground 7th District, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), attired in a blue suit and tie (“Usually I campaign in a sweater and blazer”) knocked on doors today in this politically contentious town, while knocking around his opponent, Democrat Tom Malinowski.

“His views are to the left on the great issues confronting the nation, he’s had no history of involvement in the district and he’s a complete carpetbagger,” said Lance, first elected to his seat in 2008, a donnybrook with then-Assemblywoman Linda Stender when the district was more Democratic.

Lance defeated Stender by nearly nine points.

That race was tougher than this one, he insists.

“2008 was my hardest contest because that’s when I was introducing myself to voters in the district, but this has been the most challenging race since then,” he observed.

“The district is a moderate to conservative centrist district,” he added.

It’s the central organizing principle of his campaign.

Arriving from a memorial service in Livingston for the victims of yesterday’s Squirrel Hill massacre, Lance said he believes in governing from the center. “Bipartisanship,” he says when asked to describe his best argument for Nov. 6th, nine days from now. “The question or comment I hear most often is we want greater bipartisanship. That pervades all the important issues, such as healthcare, immigration, tax policy.”

Democrats backing Malinowski are banking on the toxicity of President Donald J. Trump, intensified by the sulfuric proximity of his Bedminster golf course and the most vexing contradictory memories of someone like the late Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, an intellect and diplomat whose smiling statue stands in a pocket park in Bernardsville.

Flanked by Union County Republican Committee Chairman Glenn Mortimer and Mountainside Mayor Paul N. Mirabelli, Lance steps gingerly on the subject of Trump.

Asked if he believes the President is a hate-monger, he dives into policy.

“There are areas where we agree; I think he’s doing a better job fighting ISIS, and giving support for Israel,” said the Republican congressman. “There are, too, major areas where I have not voted with the president, on healthcare and the tax plan.”

Malinowski routinely seizes on the healthcare vote as evidence of what he describes as “the Lance dance,” the gyrations of one who voted multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act during the Obama years, then reversed himself when it came time to repeal with Trump in the White House.

As for Trump’s tone, “I lead by example, and my tone is 180 degrees away from his,” Lance said.

If Democrats rejoice in the opportunity Trump affords – Monmouth University Pollster Paterick Murray says Trump polls as low in Somerset as he does in parts of Hudson – the GOP is convinced U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) impairs Malinowski.

“It’s going to have a significant impact,” said Lance, who backs Menendez’s opponent, Republican nominee Bob Hugin.

“I am part of the Hugin-Lance team and my opponent is part of the Menendez-Malinowski team,” said Lance. “I believe Hugin will win the district quite easily. I think he is infinitely preferable to Menendez. I am campaigning with him and for him.”

Of course, he also delights in pointing out other battleground district Democrats’ strenuous resistance to reinstalling U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as speaker, in contrast to his own opponent.

InsiderNJ asked Lance whom he favors to lead the House, if indeed Republicans retain control.

“Kevin McCarthy is in the lead, but he doesn’t have the votes of the Freedom Caucus,” Lance said. “I would favor U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the energy and commerce committee, as a compromise. I think he’d be an excellent speaker. He’s not running at the moment; of course, he’d have to run. But among those running, I’m more supportive of Kevin McCarty than Jim Jordan, for example.”


From left: Mortimer, Lance and Mirabelli.
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