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CHESTER – To Tom Malinowski of CD7, what is admittedly a tough fight for reelection is really kind of simple.
It all comes down to decency, he says.
Officially kicking off his campaign in Morris County Wednesday night, Malinowski told about 150 supportive Democrats in an art gallery here that his race against Republican Tom H. Kean Jr. boils down to the type of country you want to have.
As he has done in previous county kickoffs around the sprawling 7th District, Malinowski tied Kean to what Democrats consider some of the worst excesses of the Trump administration.
They include separating kids from their parents at the southern border, cuddling up to dictators, attacking the FBI and interfering with the judicial process. The president’s recent judicial meddling prompted the scholarly congressman to try a one-liner. He said many in the crowd probably hadn’t heard news that broke “20 minutes ago.”
Now the audience was on the edge of their proverbial seats.
“The president,” Malinowski said, has just pardoned a notorious New Jersey mobster – someone in Mikie Sherrill’s district. Just who was that?
“Tony Soprano,” the congressman said. In the fictional world of TV, Tony lived in North Caldwell.
Jokes can help make a point, but really now, Morris County is not the Borscht Belt and the congressman is not Don Rickles.
Malinowski was on safer terrain when he made a more cogent point. Given the fact Donald Trump will head the GOP ticket this fall, Malinowski says Kean will have to answer for the president’s record even if he disagrees with some of it.
And if that happens, Malinowski said he’s confident of prevailing.
Fear will play a role as well. He said Democratic campaign workers must remind voters that total Republican control of government could mean eliminating the ACA and its prohibition against preexisting condition discrimination, cuts in safety net programs (just look at Trump’s budget, he said) and oil drilling off the Jersey coast.
Still, this is not going to be easy, Some of the more seasoned political observers in the room noted that Kean’s legislative district overlaps with the congressional district so the Republican is a known quantity.
The Morris County towns in the 7th District are strongly Republican registration wise, but Malinowski lost them by only about 3,000 votes in 2018. It would behoove him to duplicate, or even improve, that performance if he wants another term.
But unlike two years ago, there figure to be more people voting in this year’s presidential election. Will that help or hinder the congressman?
Chip Robinson, the chair of the county Democratic committee, admitted that “Western Morris County has always been a struggle for us in presidential elections.”
Malinowski was more upbeat. As he waded through the crowd prior to speaking, he said, “Some people might be surprised we got this type of turnout in western Morris County, but I’m not surprised.”