SOMERVILLE – Banker Linda Weber of Berkeley Heights scored the first win of the season tonight in the contentious CD7 Democratic Primary, beating former State Department Official Tom Malinowski for the support of the Somerset County Democratic Committee.
Weber won 12 towns and Malinowski notched 5.
The result in Savor in downtown Somerville here was a unanimous endorsement award by the entire committee.
Malinowski won Hillsborough, Montgomery, Somerville, Bridgewater and Peapack.
Weber picked up the rest for the win.
The field of Democratic candidates competing to go against U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) in the general election consists of Weber, Malinowski, attorney Goutam Jois of Summit, attorney Scott Salmon of Scotch Plains, social worker Peter Jacob of Springfield, attorney Lisa Mandleblatt of Westfield, and environmental activist Dave Pringle of Cranford.
But in the past few weeks the race narrowed to Weber and Malinowski, with the foreign policy credentials and fundraising capacities of the former impressing a vocal group of the county’s Democrats, even as Weber more obviously fit a prevailing party women empowerment narrative.
The plan late in 2017 was for all the county organizations with portions of the 7th District to issue a simultaneous endorsement, with Weber the favorite to get the nod. But Malinowski’s fundraising prowess (he’s parlayed national contacts into over $500k, compared to Weber’s $325K), solid debate performances, and a Union County mangled by a leadership vacuum derailed those intentions.
Somerset tonight went ahead anyway with a scheduled meeting and opted for Weber.
There was lingering interest in Malinowski in local town watering holes after the vote, however, suggesting an opening for the diplomat in June even if he lacks the formal support of the organization.
He fought Weber here to the wire – and still has a cash advantage.
Sources expect Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones – who oversees the single Essex County town of Millburn in CD7 – to double down on Somerset’s selection tomorrow with a second county endorsement for Weber.
But Hunterdon, Warren, and – in particular – Union appear less settled at the moment.
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