Malinowski v. Kean Part II: Welcome to the Worst Contest of All Time

CD7, Kean and Malinowski.

The cruel penalty for New Jersey’s political apathy and acquiescence to the will of a world that concocts a Trenton power-sharing scheme of Murphy-Sweeney-Coughlin, comes in the form of the 2022 CD-7 Malinowski versus Kean rematch, which presents as the most cynical of all time, turning a leafy but visibly beat-up suburban spill-zone into the Zabriskie Point of New Jersey politics.

As currently configured, this “gentleman’s contest” consists of incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7) against former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., a coloring book contemporary version of Alexander Hamilton versus Aaron Burr.

Kean’s candidacy confirms the worst horrors of those who believed Donald Trump arrived to the presidency as an anomaly, as some dreadful mutation distant from the supposedly noble grandeur of Mayflower derivatives embodied by the likes of Tom Kean, Sr. and his ilk. In fact, Kean, Jr. has emerged as the state’s most handled project of Trump’s operatives, to the point where the flailing ex-president might look comfortable at the same Thanksgiving table, which should provoke something on the order of not just discomfort but downright despair among CD-7 residents. If Kean’s ancestors once braved the Atlantic to reach the fledgling country, now junior seems challenged to go beyond the town limits of Westfield unless it’s the rarified climes of a golf course, inevitably Trump’s. Not surprisingly, when he kicked off earlier this summer at an event predictably barring the media, Kean welcomed noted Trump flunky U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as his “special guest.”

Then there’s Malinowski.

According to a now infamous report in Business Insider, Malinowski (D-7) failed to publicly disclose at least $671,000 in personal stock trades in 2020. The report says Malinowski “made a flurry of trades in March 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, investing in General Mills, the J.M. Smucker Company and, later, Peloton,” and failed to disclose the trades. “Malinowski may have made as much as $2.76 million in trades as members of Congress are not required to report exact amounts of their stock assets.”

The Democratic congressman “has a financial advisor that makes trading decisions on his behalf without his regular input,” his spokeswoman told Business Insider.

According to InsiderNJ columnist Fred Snowflack, Malinowski has since put his holdings in a blind trust, and said at a town hall last month that he wants to strengthen ethics rules to require all members of Congress to put holdings in a blind trust upon election. He said many members do not do that, and noted that he didn’t have a blind trust when he joined Congress in January, 2019.

“I do now,” he offered.

Now, both sides continue to bludgeon away, the GOP especially animated. Because of the stock story and his relative lack of relationships in the shark tank of New Jersey politics, compared to the rest of the delegation, Malinowski looks vulnerable heading toward the 2022 Biden midterm election.

It says a lot about the ill health of New Jersey’s political condition that this contest – already in full swing, like a child’s seesaw commandeered by zombie spawn – is actually a sequel to an already bewilderingly bad 2020 shove-down, which a mud-slung Malinowski won by about 5,000 votes over a reinforced concrete-protected Kean.

One would hope redistricting – ironically a notably anti-democratic two-party procedure – would put the people of the district out of their agony.

Indeed, separating Malinowski from heavily Democratic Milburn in Essex County, for example, and supplanting Republican towns, would give Kean the edge required to occupy the status of prohibitive favorite. It would likely serve as the impetus to send Malinowski back to the State Department. But Democrats cling to a 220 to 212 lead in the U.S. House of Representatives (remember, that’s the place that occupies one half of our United States Capitol, desecrated on Jan. 6th by Trump devotees as Kean Jr. offered the most bubble wrapped words of condemnation under the guise of bipartisanship) and depend on an already in-office incumbent like Malinowski and other battleground occupants to maintain their edge over the Trump-obedient McCarthy.

Remove a few Republican towns and amp Malinowski up with some Democratic strongholds and suddenly Kean has a problem.

In other words, this is a tormented insider contest, like no other, that truly hinges on the backrooms of an utterly compromised establishment to decide the fates of men from separate stratospheres, equally and dispassionately apart from the worlds they try to occupy: the son of a former Republican governor who has run three times for federal office and failed to get out of New Jersey, and a federal bureaucrat trying to appear grounded in New Jersey.

If Malinowski offers a sweaty vibe heading into redistricting, the consequence of his having inorganically landed in the district, Kean – reduced as never before to a nonspeaking role as he attempts to fulfil the expectations of a leading man – appears to have the entirety of the process – at least from the standpoint of the Republican redistricting effort – concocted for his benefit. The post Christie, post-Trump GOP is so weak in New Jersey that it lives for little punctuation marks, like turning Malinowski into Steve Rothman and forcing him to walk the plank.

Like the personification of a wonder bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Kean has already been ziplocked into a plastic bag for the duration. He’s like a crew member in Alien who enters a pressure chamber and is programmed to wake up after the election. As for Malinowski, nothing quite reveals the hollowness of hurried back slapping and thumbs up signaling as a substitute for real relationship building like the redistricting process.

Of course, the congressman has already submitted himself to the process of frantic federal power projection.

Doubt Malinowski’s effectiveness?

Pete Buttigieg will force feed him to you.

Coming soon to CD7: the mummified remains of John Kerry, a roundtable on foreign policy by an unknown Antony Blinken underling with the remnants of the NJ press corps, and, of course, a presidential message of affirmation issued by a weightless Barack Obama while aboard Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

This contest will get big, which is to say it will get obesely grotesque.

Exhibiting Machiavellian ruthlessness that people may have forgotten about, Malinowski muscled his way into the CD7 primary back in 2018 by taking advantage of a severely morally impaired and fractured Union County Democratic Committee. Never underestimate the power of transactional moves here. But his rapid ascent with the assistance of Union also made those other chairs who wanted to go in another direction, with a woman candidate, for example, feel somewhat useless.

The wounds never quite healed, in a state defined by that wretched combination of political parochialism and outsized egotism.

How dare these federal bigwigs come to our swamps and not kiss my ring – runs through the rankled veins of every two-bit Titus Andronicus who sits atop a section of ruins and wishes now to effect the full Martin O’Mallification of Malinowski, which is to say, make sure that he plays the part of red-shirted hostile planet casualty who does not beam back aboard the Enterprise with Kirk and the other stars of the show at the conclusion of redistricting.

Can Malinowski once again slither through the serpentine recesses of his own party processes?

A grin of complacency plastered to patrician projections, Kean leapfrogs from golf course to golf course with the ultimate goal of getting funneled into the Republican grain silo of Trump World. As for Malinowski, if Joe D’s beautification efforts in Essex County lend a kind of imperial vitality to the environs, the paint-peeling, run-down looking building marked “Congressman Malinowski” in Somerville does little more than contribute to the town’s overall morbid decrepitude. Meanwhile, the operatives from both sides daily land in CD-7 like ninjas repelling into the mouth of a volcano, a la You Only Live Twice.

From the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC):

“Maybe Tom Kean Jr.’s decision to launch his campaign with Trump enabler Kevin McCarthy wasn’t such a bright idea after all. Weeks after racking up bad press from his campaign launch with the GOP Leader, a new poll from No Labels/HarrisX of NJ-07 finds that both McCarthy and Trump are desperately unpopular in the district. McCarthy features a -17% approval rating with Trump holding an even lower -21%.

“It’s no surprise that after two decades of putting Trenton insiders like himself over New Jersey’s working families Tom Kean Jr. would make the short-sighted decision to align himself with Trump and his unpopular cronies,” said DCCC Spokesman James Singer.

Everything McCarthy does rebounds on Kean, just as the GOP attempts to undermine Malinowski by depicting him a s a tool of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Like this:

“Saturday night, Tom Kean Jr. endorser and Trump apologist Kevin McCarthy made a ‘joke’ saying it would be ‘hard not to hit’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a gavel. During his campaign launch, reports found moderate Republicans and Kean‘s father’s allies were ‘irritated’ at the campaign’s decision to invite not-so-great GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to Kean Jr’s kickoff, with a Kean Sr. ally reportedly calling the invitation ‘outrageous.’ Some even accused him of ‘tarnishing the family name.’

“Will Kean Jr. stand up to his friend McCarthy and prove he’s independent or will he sit silently in the face of unfunny, gross jokes about assault. “It’s simple. Tom Kean Jr. should let New Jersey know if he thinks assaulting women is funny or not,” said DCCC Spokesman James Singer.

For their part, the GOP ICBM’d “recent NRCC battleground polling, which revealed that 70% of voters are concerned about rising prices and a recent CBS poll 78% of respondents said groceries and food are more expensive.” As part of what it described an effort targeting vulnerable Democrats in the Northeast, the NRCC this summer launched digital and billboard advertisements targeting Tom Malinowski for profiting off the pandemic by making millions of dollars’ worth of shady stock trades. See the digital ad here and the billboard here.

“Tom Malinowski is welcome to beg for a merciful redistricting process that won’t throw him under the bus – but he will lose his seat no matter what happens in redistricting, thanks to his own corrupt actions,” said NRCC Spokeswoman Samantha Bullock.

When Buttigieg appeared this week, Bullock was ready, jeering at Malinowski requiring Biden Administration “reinforcements” in his bid for reelection.

This morning, the conservative American Action Network went up up with about $750,000 in TV ads in the districts of Malinowski, Andy Kim, and Frank Pallone over the $3.5T economic agenda bill the Biden admin released this week. The ads go after inflation, tax increases and the drug takeover in the bill and urge the Congressmen to vote against it. “We’ll be on cable TV and digital in Malinowski and Kim’s districts ($500,000 and $230,000 respectively) and on digital in Frank Pallone’s ($35,000),” according to spokesman Calvin Moore.

Malinowski’s the priority, obviously.

It goes on, and on, and will go on, and on the streets of Somerville, the ravaged remains of humanity shamble through alleyways and back lots, the plight of impoverished people here intensified by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, society’s divisions marked with a vengeance in 2020 and its aftermath. “We can’t lose faith with this movement,” said local activist Mason Robinson nearly a year ago, standing in front of the historic Somerset County Courthouse. “We’ve got to continue to push. We’ve got to continue to fight. You saw what happened when we walked up and down these streets. They weren’t kind. They weren’t loving. We knew that. we know what’s going to happen. we’ve got to keep having faith and supporting one another.

“I love the fight,” Robinson said. “I appreciate the energy. You could all be home watching football; watching sports. But the lovely thing about sports right now is you can’t turn it on without seeing some type of Black Lives Matter movement. If they’re going to listen to us, we’re going to make some people feel uncomfortable.”

On his way into a fundraising event for Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) in the lead-up to the June Primary, Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) would not say whether he would post legislation this year authorizing municipalities to create civilian review boards with full subpoena power to oversee law enforcement.

Coughlin told InsiderNJ that the Assembly had passed it out of committee.

But the speaker would not commit to moving the legislation in 2021, as many leaders, including state Senators Ronald L. Rice (D-28) and Shirley Turner (D-15), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, and Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp, pressed for lawmakers to move on the bill and for Governor Phil Murphy to sign it into law. A-4656, sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31) of Jersey City, became a focal point on the streets at events helmed by New Jersey civil rights activist Larry Hamm and others in the aftermath of a jury handing a guilty verdict to former cop Derek Chauvin, who last year murdered Minnesotan George Floyd.

“We’re working on the, uh; we passed it out of committee,” said Coughlin, in a brace of Democratic establishment players including Bergen County Democratic Committee Chairman Paul Juliano and state Senator Joe Lagana (D-36), as they headed for Il Castello’s on Main Street in Woodbridge for a $500 per-head fundraiser for Johnson and his slate running in the June 8th Democratic Primary.

It never went anywhere, as the backroom tractor beam of the 2021 general election cycle took hold, within the crammed concentric circle of the 2022 election cycle, which exists so close, if not within, the roving cart circuitries of the Bedminster Golf Course owned by Trump, and federal priorities pressing down on the transactional Democratic establishment here, seemingly so far away, so removed, from the streets of Somerville, BLM just one concern among many, which look like casualties onto themselves, in the midst of the battleground insider concatenations of Malinowski versus Kean II.

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