Senate Republican Leader Kean Launches 2020 Congressional Bid

State Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) announced Tuesday that he will challenge freshman Congressman Tom Malinowski (D-7) in 2020. Kean launched an exploratory committee in March and last night formally entered the race for the Republican nomination in the 7th District.

Kean, 50, ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in his political debut in 2000. He lost the primary to Mike Ferguson (R-7) finishing second in a field of four candidates. Ferguson served four terms before declining to seek re-election in 2008. He was succeeded by Leonard Lance (R-7) who Malinowski unseated in last year’s Democratic landslide. 

Kean is viewed as strong challenger to Malinowski, a top target next year as Republicans seek to regain control of the House.

The son of a popular former governor, Kean is a proven vote-getter in his own right.  He has won six races for the New Jersey Legislature by wide margins in a district that has become increasingly more Democratic and has been through a tough statewide campaign as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006.

Several Republicans are also mulling bids in the 7th, including state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-23), Asm. Erik Peterson (R-23), and former U.S. Senate staffer Rosemary Becchi.

Tom Phillips, a 41-year-old human resources executive from Scotch Plains, was the first candidate to enter the race.

There are 5,066 more Republicans than Democrats in the 7th, which supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election by a 48%-47% margin – a 4,139-vote plurality.

Malinowski beat Lance by 16,400 votes (52%-47%), becoming the first Democrat to win the 7th district seat since 1956.

Four of New Jersey’s twelve House seats switched from Republican to Democrat in last year’s mid-term elections. With little over three months into the new Congress, battle lines are already being drawn for 2020. All four Democratic freshmen are expected to be targeted by Republicans as the GOP attempts to rebound from a disastrous midterm cycle that saw the party lose its majority in the House, and left Rep. Chris Smith (R-4) as the GOP’s sole representative from New Jersey.