While not calling out Tom Kean, Jr., by name, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has come out with a statement and video spot blistering his opponent, incumbent Congressman Tom Malinowski Monday and Tuesday morning, respectively. The race in CD-7 is arguably the closest and most important of all the congressional races in New Jersey, with the potential to have a serious impact on the composition of the House following the midterm elections. With America remaining as dangerously hyper-polarized as ever, CD-7 has attracted national attention. Thanks to redistricting and a Democratic Party content to lay Malinowski out as a sacrificial lamb, the congressman is fighting tooth and nail in a district which now has more Republicans than previously after the new lines were drawn. His opponent, the media-shy Tom Kean, is a former state senator and son of Governor Tom Kean, one of New Jersey’s most popular Republican governors in living memory.
The video, a 30-second segment, predictably describes the congressman as an “extreme liberal” but then digs in, saying he profited off the pandemic by trading a million dollars in companies involved with pandemic recovery. The ad also blames Malinowski for driving up national inflation by voting for HR5376 (The Inflation Reduction Act) and HR1319 (The American Rescue Plan Act). Pre-pandemic, the NRCC ad said the congressman supported “higher taxes on families and seniors” by voting for HR860 the Social Security 2100 Act in 2019, although the bill never became a law. The ad did not mention Tom Kean, Jr., at any time.
The video ad follows a Monday statement from the NRCC which, while again not mentioning Kean, said that Malinowski claims the economy is the number one issue facing Americans. This comes as a change, according to the NRCC, from Malinowski using abortion as his key issue. Further, the NRCC charges that Malinowski doesn’t mention the economy in his TV ads. Spokeswoman Samantha Bullock said in a statement, “Tom Malinowski has finally learned what everyone else already knew: the economy is the number one issue in this election.”
The Malinowski campaign had its own volleys to fire at Kean.
To say that Kean is tight-lipped is to beat a dead horse. Anyone who has followed this race knows that the Kean strategy seems to be to remain as quiet and as vague as possible and try to let Malinowski stumble. With election day drawing nearer, however, some more barbs are being drawn out. As his campaign targets Malinowski’s alleged insider trading as a way to put some holes into the incumbent’s efforts, Malinowski has fired back by describing the “Silent Cal” approach as a failure and an effort to simply avoid meaningful political dialogue.
The campaign referred to Kean’s performance at the Jewish Federation Forum. “His incoherence and inability to answer direct questions left the audience utterly confused as to what he actually believes,” the campaign said in a statement.
While Kean’s allies, the NRCC, have tried to use abortion against Malinowski, the incumbent’s team blasted Kean on inconsistencies regarding the very same issue. “Kean Jr. attempted to call himself pro-choice, even after being called out by the moderators for claiming on a hidden website that he is ‘a fierce defender of the sanctity of life, fighting every step of the way to protect the unborn from egregious abortion laws proposed in New Jersey.’ When asked to clarify his position on reproductive rights, Kean Jr. said:
“I support a woman’s right to choose. I have a twenty year career in the State Senate to support that. Like most New Jerseyans, I support reasonable restrictions, those include life and physical health in the event of the mother and the baby, rape, and incest, for example.”
Malinowski’s team then asserted that as Kean was departing the State Senate, he “voted against codifying Roe v. Wade in New Jersey, and that he voted to defund Planned Parenthood for nearly a decade.”
To throw a little Trump-fuel on the fire, Malinowski’s campaign said that Kean was inconsistent regarding the January 6 Committee, apparently as the latter tried to straddle the MAGA wing of the party with those who did not want to see the nation’s Capitol Building a heap of ruin.
While the NRCC said that Malinowski has “finally learned” that the economy is key, the Malinowski campaign asserts that Kean himself doesn’t actually have any kind of plan or elucidated strategy.
“Tom Kean Jr. doesn’t seem to have a platform or a solution to anything, even on the economy – the one issue he beats the drum on,” a statement read. “The only economic position he has recently taken was to oppose the Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers prescription drug and health insurance costs, diminishes America’s dependence on foreign oil, and reduces the federal deficit by $300 billion, and which 126 leading economists from across the political spectrum have said will also lower overall inflation.”
As the campaigns grow white-hot in the cool autumn, Malinowski’s campaign manager, Brooke Zindulka, said, “Tom Kean Jr.’s strategy of silence isn’t working. He thought he could keep his head down, dodge the public, and the press, and ride a red wave to Congress. But Tom Malinowski is holding Kean Jr.’s feet to the fire and voters are taking notice. New Jerseyans don’t want a Member of Congress who will criminalize women’s health care, and subvert our democracy. They want to see real results for our district and in their lives, and that’s why they are going to reelect Tom Malinowski.”
But Malinowski is carrying an anchor around his neck, one which the Republicans are all too happy to push down upon, and one which certain indifferent Democratic bosses are content enough to shrug over: that matter of failing to report stock assets in 2020. Since that time, Malinowski defended himself and said he has a blind trust, but did not have one when he came into congress.
The issue that Malinowski faces is a triple threat as he lowers his visor and spurs his steed to tilt against Silent Kean. One, he is not an organic sprout sprung up from New Jersey’s traditional, machine soil. As such, his base of networking has strong national ties, but not as strong within the state itself. He did not become a Democratic knight by kissing the appropriate–and most importantly–feudal rings as an aspiring squire, so to speak. Without the full weight of the Democratic state machine behind him, Malinowski’s fight is his own to win or to lose. Two, the trading scandal provides the necessary counter-weight for all the national-level baggage that the Republicans carry during this campaign. Contrast this with Congressman Andy Kim, whose image is squeaky and almost quaint. While Kean has not effectively defined himself on much of anything, his inability or unwillingness to make a firm stand with respect to January 6 and the MAGA section of the party he will need to ultimately win, Malinowski’s alleged financial mischief ensures that there can be no credible “let he who is without sin” element enter the debate. Lastly, Malinowski has to contend with the effects of redistricting that gives Kean a theoretical advantage in this hyper-competitive battle. The Democratic map was the one chosen for redistricting. Each of the party’s powers-that-be put forward their own gerrymandered feat of representative (real and imagined) engineering to best suit their long-term goals. To play ball, however, and ensure a workable relationship in the broadest sense, the Democratic map seems to have been designed to perpetually enshrine Republican congressmen Jeff Van Drew and Chris Smith. In exchange, a map more favorable to northern and central Democratic powers Sherrill, Gottheimer, and Kim was advanced. The majority still favors the Democrats and this seems to be a realistic reflection of the state’s composition. The concession to ensure that favored incumbents remain strong on both sides just left Malinowski, the outsider or the Pelosian, depending on one’s perspective, as the hanging chad which leaves heads scratching until Zero Hour.
If Malinowski loses, the Democrats see a reasonably moderate Republican to replace him—not the end of the world by any means. Kean is no Peterson and, perhaps with the exception of Ian Smith, there are no Garden State Marjorie Taylor Greenes waiting for Democrats (or Republicans) to worry about for the time being. Some disaffected Republicans and Democrats may embrace, if only in spirit, the “Moderate Party” which is a product of this race and, for the moment, is working to advance Malinowski. Should this be a reflection of the larger voting base, there could be an impact derived from the merits of Malinowski’s own work for the district.
If Malinowski wins, the Democratic delegation to Washington DC is even stronger and President Biden will have one more ally in the House. The incumbent had said he looks forward to a “landside of 1%”, a candid assessment of the battlefield his ground-team is working actively to take control of. But should Malinowski manage to pull off the victory, whether Kean says or, more likely, does not say, then the victory is his and his supporters’ alone, and he will return to DC in a new position to assess his relationship with the state’s blue kingpins.