FRENCHTOWN – Across from a big wide open farm field just east of the Delaware River, the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee held their convention this morning in the local firehouse here and awarded their support to 7th Congressional District candidate Tom Malinowski.
Malinowski won on the first ballot, needing to reach 81 votes or 51%. He received 96 votes to Linda Weber’s 42. Dave Pringle got 10 votes, Goutam Jois got 12, Scott Salmon got 3, and Peter Jacob and Lisa Mandelblatt received 0.
The 2016 nominee for the congressional seat, Jacob did not attend the packed firehouse convention.
The Hunterdon victory for Malinowski (pictured, top, with his campaign manager Colston Reid) demonstrated fractures among the counties that make up CD7, as they attempt to coalesce behind a candidate to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7). Somerset and Essex are all in Weber, while Hunterdon Chair Arlene Quinones-Perez had personally endorsed Weber.
Malinowski headed into the Hunterdon vote this morning sufficiently muscled up on the fundraising front, as he raised more money last quarter and has more COH than any of his opponents.
Dogged by residency issues – schooled as a youngster in Princeton but away from the area most of his adult life and a homeowner in CD7 only as of 2017 – Malinowski recalled to the crowd a childhood that included jaunts to Lambertville and winter tubing in the county’s wide open spaces. He received a big hand, maybe only equaled during the speeches portion of the six attendant candidates’ (Jacob was absent) presentations by Salmon, who endeared himself to at least one committee member who remembered the fledgling candidate driving out in the freezing cold to make a personal connection.
“Democracy in action,” Jois devotee Joey Novick said as he surveyed the scene.
But it was concussive for Malinowski finally.
His victory proved a victory too for Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach, a former CD7 Democratic
candidate herself, who this morning put Malinowski’s name in nomination.
After the first ballot win – which surprised some delegates who planned to stay into the afternoon for what they suspected would be Malinowski v. Weber on at least second ballot – the former Assistant Secretary of State under John Kerry addressed the crowd, “I accept the nomination and I am incredibly honored I see this as a sacred trust.
“I won’t take a single penny from corporate PACs, like Leonard Lance,” he promised.
Webber won the line last month in Essex and Somerset, but Hunterdon Democrats under the leadership of Chair Quinones Perez were the first organization in CD7 to have an open convention, which handed Malinowski a decisive victory.
Ultimately, the committee members put this one on their back.
“I’ve never seen it this crowded,” marveled Kovach.
Quinones Perez, at the front of the room, observed, “We’re obviously going to have to get a bigger room.”
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-16) both strolled the scene, and voted. Zwicker’s longtime ally and political minder Mark Matzen could be seen in the vicinity of this morning’s second place finisher. League of Conservation Voters Chief Ed Potosnak, himself a former CD7 candidate, also attended the convention.
For his part, frmer U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli (D-NJ) seconded the nomination of Pringle for Congress. When the organization backed the reelection of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), it did so over the objections of 14 committee members.
Trying to get something going, environmental activist Pringle assured voting party members that he liked the whole field of Democratic rivals in 7th, but suspects three (presumably Jois, Salmon and Jacob) are too young, two insufficiently politically seasoned (presumably Mandelblatt and Weber), and one (Malinowski) “never lived in the district.”
In her own speech to delegates, Mandelblatt pressed the case for herself by including “the likeability factor; and Jois shared with the crowd his email sharing just this week with old friend U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), who delivered the rejoinder to President Donald J. Trump’s Tuesday night State of the Union Address.
Weber tried to make the case for residency.
“This is my home,” she said in her speech prior to voting.
But Malinowski played the “I was away defending my our country” card in his state department job, and it worked.
“You’ve taken me into your homes and critiqued my wardrobe and my speaking style and I feel like I have so many friends and we are going to do this thorough November and beyond,” said this morning’s winner.