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MORRISTOWN – As he hops around the 7th District officially kicking off his re-election campaign county-by-county, Tom Malinowski says he knows what Republicans are going to say about him.
They’re going to call me a “Socialist Democrat” who supports “open borders,” the congressman said the other night in Chester, mimicking the alarmist tone of a political ad voiceover.
He was close.
Speaking Thursday night to a group of Young Republicans, Congressional candidate Tom Kean Jr. said Malinowski may as well be a “cardboard cutout” of a congressman. That’s because all he does is vote with Nancy Pelosi “100 percent” of the time.
Kean’s obvious point was that a representative who merely follows the Speaker is not recognizing the needs of New Jersey’s 7th District.
And Kean suggested he knows why. Malinowski, he asserted, has brought “DC values” to New Jersey.
Kean speaks softly and his comments were delivered in a polite manner. The setting – the more than 100-year-old, Morristown Club – likely contributed to the genteel atmosphere.
All in the room knew that the 7th District had been held by Rep, Leonard Lance, a somewhat moderate Republican, until Malinowski upended him two years ago.
Kean, speaking in the club’s library, said this year’s dynamic will be completely different than 2018. That’s a legitimate point. Donald Trump was not on the ballot two years ago, but he will be this year.
Whether that helps, or hurts Kean, is the question.
The Republican congressional committee has been touting a poll that puts Kean two points ahead of Malinowski. That really means nothing at all. A two-point spread is within the margin of error and partisan polls are not exactly reliable.
It was also mentioned that registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district. That’s certainly true, but the GOP’s margin, which has been shrinking, is now down to about 1,400.
When Kean got around to talking about issues, it was striking that the gap was not as huge – at least at this juncture – as you would expect.
Talking about priorities, Kean mentioned the Gateway Tunnel, restoring the SALT deduction and doing something about health care costs.
Malinowski, along with all other New Jersey Democrats in Congress, also supports the tunnel project and restoring the SALT deduction, which is eliminating the $10,000 federal income tax deduction cap on state and local taxes. House Democrats, in fact, passed a bill in December to do just that; the Senate has no plans to consider it.
As for health care, Kean said he wants to protect those with preexisting conditions from insurance company discrimination and also preserve the ability of families to put their children on their insurance policies until age 26. Those are two key provisions of Obamacare.
Kean did speak about better border control, which is not something generally stressed at Democratic events, and he also criticized last year’s House passage of a bill regarding prescription drugs.
Democrats say the measure could lower drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices. Kean’s take was that the bill could adversely impact research and that it could hurt the state’s extensive pharmaceutical industry.
Clearly, more differences between the candidates will surface, but you kind of get the impression that how well Trump does in the district is going to be pretty darn important in regard to the House race.