In a critical victory toward cementing himself as the frontrunner in the CD7 Democratic Primary, Tom Malinowski this afternoon defeated Linda Weber for the backing of the Union County Democratic Organization line.
“I’m grateful to the Union County Democrats for their support, and look forward to continuing a positive campaign with a party united in its determination to win,” Malinowski said.
It was as big a loss for Weber as it was a win for Malinowski in a very close contest intensified by county wins for both contenders in previous conventions, and defined by significant buttonholing in the closing days and even hours.
Malinowski now has the backing of Democratic Party organizations in Hunterdon, Warren, Morris and Union.
The last hurts acutely for Weber, who lives in Union.
“She has not made a decision yet,” Weber Campaign Spokeswoman Tara Dowdell told InsiderNJ, regarding the candidate’s plans.
“Too new, but standby,” she added.
Sources said they anticipate Weber making good on her word to drop out if she lost Union, and expect an imminent pulling of the plug.
Still, it hurt.
It had to.
There was only one thing clear to a Union County insider as the late afternoon vote got underway.
“The only thing I know is a couple of people have lied to one side,” the source said, refusing to surmise who would win between Linda Weber and Tom Malinowski.
The final tally was 7-6 Malinowski.
Garwood broke the tie in his favor, a source told InsiderNJ.
(Garwood Democratic Committee Chairman Hugh) “Sinclair committed his support to Linda as late as the elevator into voting, then flipped on her,” one wounded source complained.
Whatever the fine points, the Weber camp was irritated by the process, and attempted unsuccessfully late in the day to land speaking engagements for the candidates.
In a field of Democrats that included David Pringle, Goutam Jois, and Peter Jacob, they knew it was down to Malinowski and Weber.
They knew it was close.
And maybe why.
The two candidates hoping to get through a Democratic Primary and run in a general election against U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) presented deficits that perhaps spoke more loudly – at times – than their respective assets.
The Union County-based Weber was a woman from Berkeley Heights but her fundraising numbers underwhelmed, and the bank VP never landed on a compelling message that could stem the Malinowski stampede, going back to when he grabbed a win in Hunterdon and halted any momentum Weber might have been able to generate off her Somerset and Essex victories.
Then Malinowski – a late entrant to the contest – established himself – on the strength of his fundraising ($446,082 cash on hand, compared to $132,591 COH for Weber, according to the FEC) and debate performances – with wins in Warren and Morris on the heels of Hunterdon.
“Flabbergasted,” a source – a Weber fan – told InsiderNJ, referring to his reaction to the Weber Campaign.
Malinowski, however, for all his demonstrable skill, had to handle his own less than rosy narrative.
The candidate received a homestead deduction for a property in D.C., which revealed D.C., not Rocky Hill, to be the former assistant secretary of state’s primary residence. It didn’t help his cause that as the apparent 7th District vanguard of the #MeToo Women’s Movement, he was a man.
“Linda’s flawed, Tom’s fatally flawed,” a source griped to InsiderNJ, wondering aloud why the party couldn’t find another direction, and empower, for example, attorney Goutam Jois of Summit, who didn’t present the same obvious obstacles of Weber and Malinowski.
In the end, though, the ties Malinowski established early in Union, including a fastening to Nick Fixmer, the executive director of the Union County Democratic Committee, appeared to give him an edge to add to the momentum he wrought in Hunterdon, Warren and Morris. Late, Lisa Mandelblatt of Westfield dropped out of the contest and threw her support to Malinowski. Scott Salmon of Scotch Plains went the same route.
Union began crumbling in the direction of the Rocky Hill resident, with that establishment lifeline already set. He did, too, to his credit, forge a grassroots network of supporters, and the likes of Clinton Twp. Mayor Janice Kovach were not just backers – but impassioned backers.
Last week, Weber showed signs of desperation when a campaign Facebook ad went hard negative on Malinowski and – in tawdry fashion – cooked up a link that implicated InsiderNJ in a fake news headline.
The actually story noting the former state department’s residency issues can be found here.
A source close to the frontrunner’s campaign said Malinowski handled the issue, and the property taxes he plans to pay in March will not contain the ease of the Homestead Reduction.
Newly led by Union County Democratic Chairman Nick Scutari, the organization this evening also backed a countywide ticket of Mirabella, Mouded and Staten, tossing incumbent Democratic Freeholder Mohamed S. Jalloh off the line, payback to an ally of state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) ally, who occupied the losers’ bracket last month when his choice for chair, Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, fell to Scutari.
But the overriding story was CD7, as most sources expected Weber to end her campaign.
For his part, Pringle decried the process.
“The only thing the Union County Democrats succeeded in doing today is making it harder for the party to come together In the 7th CD once the primary is over whoever wins,” he said. “Even today they changed their rules and didn’t disclose it. Democrats should’ve learned by now the more unfair the process the harder it is to unite. Legitimate questions have been raised even if they could’ve been done so more diplomatically.
“Primaries are for vetting candidates, giving regular voters not just party insiders the chance to decide, and prepping for the fall. We all look forward to continuing in that effort,” Pringle added.