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MOUNTAINSIDE – When Tom Malinowski first launched his reelection campaign about 10 days ago in Hunterdon County, his opponent was unknown. It would have been either Tom Kean Jr. or Rosemary Becchi.
But when Malinowski had a second “launch” of his reelection campaign Wednesday night – this time at the Echo Tap and Grill in Union County – the GOP landscape had shifted. Becchi was now running in the 11th District, so Kean would be Malinowski’s opponent in the 7th.
“Bring it on,” Malinowski said before addressing about 100-150 people in the bar’s dining area.
He said he long assumed Kean would be his opponent and that he wants “a contest on the issues.”
When he addressed supporters, he joked that he and fellow freshman Democrat, Mikie Sherrill, share a lot of things. Now, they even share Republican opponents, given the fact Becchi’s campaign has relocated from one district to another.
In a more serious vein, Malinowski spoke of Kean as a “big name Republican.”
How “big” a name Kean is remains to be seen. Thomas H. Kean Sr. was a very popular two-term governor, but he left office more than 30 year ago. It certainly can be debated how significant the “Kean” name is to voters under 40. In what may or may not be instructive, Kean Jr. ran statewide against Bob Menendez in the 2006 U.S. Senate race with less than desirable results.
As he said in his previous campaign launch, Malinowski expects an acrimonious race, noting, “This is going to heat up pretty darn soon.”
He said he’s prepared to be called a “socialist” and a man who backs “open borders.”
In turn, Malinowski said he’s going to demand that Kean explain his support for Donald Trump, or as the congressman said, “a man who is in love with Kim Jong-un.”