Congressman Tom Kean Jr. versus (which Democrat?) in 2024
When Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski narrowly lost his reelection bid last November to Tom Kean Jr, attention immediately shifted to a possible rematch in 2024.
A 2024 rematch would be the 3rd time “the Toms” battled to represent NJ’s 7th Congressional district which includes all of Hunterdon and Warren Counties plus parts of Morris, Union, Somerset, and Sussex Counties.
Malinowski, who served two terms in Congress, won their first clash in 2020.
Due to his gallant efforts in a newly-reconfigured GOP-leaning district, Malinowski deserves the right of first refusal on a 2024 rematch. But the clock is ticking.
Tom Kean Jr. comes from a politically-powerful, old-money family. Kean also boasts an impressive fundraising aparatus led by Nicole Davidman, a one-woman fundraising juggernaut with Jersey roots and national reach. That means whoever runs against Kean in 2024 needs to start fundraising ASAP to be competitive in NJ’s costly media market.
This will be the most competitive race in New Jersey in 2024.
If Malinowski takes a pass, here’s a short list of Democrats who might square off against Tom Kean Jr. in 2024.
A longtime former state lawmaker from Elizabeth in Union County, Ray Lesniak has publicly
ruminated a challenge to Congressman Kean. The two served together in Trenton for decades.
Lesniak characterized Kean’s campaign style as “lackadaisical” echoing a longstanding critique of Kean’s lack of intestinal fortitude.
“I want to see how (Kean) will be a leader on important issues in NJ,” Lesniak told NJ.com. “What he does with that will be significant.”
It’s an intriguing matchup. It would be fun to see Lesniak (an original sponsor of marriage equality legislation) challenge Kean’s multiple votes against gay marriage. But I don’t see Lesniak actually running. First of all, there’s baggage. But also because his former legislative district doesn’t overlap with the newly reconfigured 7th Congressional district.
But Lesniak is happy to insinuate himself into the conversion to elevate the issues he champions such as himself animal rights and LGBT equality.
Also from Union County, Nick Scutari of Linden is New Jersey’s Senate President making him one of Trenton’s most powerful political gatekeepers.
Like Lesniak, Scutari seems to like the trappings of power: the titles, the gavels, the ring-kissing. And in Scutari’s case, the occasional stint as acting Governor is an intoxicating part of his job description. It’s hard to imagine him swapping all those baubles for an ultra-competitive race to (maybe) become a freshman lawmaker, possibly in the minority party.
A former deputy chief of staff for Phil Murphy, Joe Kelly just landed a patronage appointment at the Port Authority of NY/NY. His very close ties to Murphy, an immense boost to Kelly’s career, won’t help him in a race for Congress in this swing district.
A high-ranking member of the Bill Clinton Administration, Jim Johnson of Lambertville demonstrated his ability to connect with voters on the way to a surprising 2nd place finish in the 2017 democratic gubernatorial primary. A Harvard-educated attorney and community organizer, Mr. Johnson is fluent in the language spoken by the party’s base, an advantage during a potential primary.
The former mayor of Lambertville, Julia Fahl is a familiar face in Trenton’s halls of power. She’s now a government affairs pro at Archer, a politically-wired NJ law firm. She would be NJ’s first openly gay member of Congress.
A savvy campaigner who once led Planned Parenthood’s fundraising efforts in New Jersey, Ms. Fahl arrived on the political scene with much fanfare.
“A breath of fresh air,” more than one observer quipped.
But by refusing to ask permission to run for office, Ms. Fahl uncorked a boatload of establishment butt-hurt that would hobble her for the duration of her term. She declined a run for a 2nd term.
Ms. Fahl knows firsthand how gratuitously vindictive NJ politics can be. That scar tissue may deter another campaign tilt for the time being.
ARLENE QUIÑONES PEREZ
The chairwoman of the Hunterdon Democrats, Arlene Quiñones Perez is partner at DeCotiis FitzPatrick Cole & Giblin LLP where she’s one of New Jersey’s top pot lawyers. If Ms. Quiñones Perez ran (and won) she’d be in rare company. Of NJ’s 14 member delegation, only two are women, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Mikie Sherrill.
The state director of NJ Workers Families Party, Sue Altman has battled MAGA conservatives and Machine democrats her entire career. That makes her a seasoned fighter, a stark contrast to a Tom Kean Jr, whose low-key comportment sometimes comes off as listless and indecisive. Ms. Altman might be best-equipped to hammer home the “Tom Kean Jr. is a lapdog” narrative by highlighting Kean’s fealty to the self-serving men who run his party such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and former NJ Governor Chris Christie.
It’s one thing to remind voters that Tom Kean Jr and Marjorie Taylor Green have nearly identical voting records. It’ll take someone with message discipline like Sue Altman to land that punch and make it stick.
Political campaigns are all about the matchup, namely who triumphs when the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses collide. Junior v. Altman seems like a very good matchup for the democrats, especially if Kean ends up sharing a ballot with Donald Trump.
An anti-gun violence campaigner from Westfield in Union County, Marci Bandelli is a self-styled “accidental activist” whose advocacy was supercharged by the rise of Donald Trump.
The Mayor of Clifton since 2012, Janice Kovach punctuates the power of Hunterdon County in NJ’s 7th Congressional District. Ms. Kovach also ran for the seat in 2014 losing to then-incumbent Leonard Lance in what shaped up to be a very bad year for Democrats nationally.
Jay Lassiter went to rehab in 2003 and woke up in a Kafka novel also known as New Jersey politics. He runs a bootleg needle exchange out of his trunk in Camden once or twice a month.
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Tom Malinowski is the only candidate that can beat Tom kean in a 2024 matchup. The other democrats wont win because they are two left wing.
LOL Lesniak, these dem machine dinosaurs NEVER go away! They keep reappearing like a bad penny! He didn’t even serve in that county!
Of the names offered there is not one who has the reach into the DC for political backing. None of them other than Lesniak knows how to raise the money needed to run a congressional campaign.
Malinowski is the best choice we have if he decides to run. Perhaps, unless someone steps forward (Troy Singleton) who is know in te district.