Two-term Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey faces a very difficult re-election this year.
It’s not just that Democrats nationwide are facing historical headwinds — as the party that wins the White House traditionally loses roughly 25 House seats in the ensuing midterm elections — and a very rough political climate dominated by skyrocketing inflation and capsulized by President Biden’s negative approval ratings.
Malinowski, who in 2018 became the first Democrat four decades to win election in New Jersey’s traditionally red 7th Congressional District and who won reelection in 2020 by a razor-thin margin, is seeking a third term in a district redrawn to be more Republican-friendly though the once-in-a-decade redistricting process.
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Facing a challenging path ahead, Malinowski may get some help following an announcement Tuesday by a group of New Jersey Democrats, Republicans and independents to create a third party named the Moderate Party.
Its mission is to give centrist voters more of a voice, as many have become disillusioned with the feeling that the GOP and the Democratic Party have moved towards the fringes of the political spectrum.
The Moderate Party aims to act as a fusion party, which can nominate another party’s candidate as their own nominee. The practice is banned in New Jersey, but if they overcome their legal challenges, organizers of the party plan to make Malinowski their nominee in November.
“Toxic partisanship and polarization are killing our county and turning a lot of middle of the road voters away from politics. I hope that we’ve found a way here to give that silent majority a hope and some leverage to keep both parties closer to the center,” Malinowski told Fox News in an interview on the eve of New Jersey’s Tuesday primary.
“We’re at a point where the polarization is so bad it could lead to violence. It already led to violence, as we saw on Jan. 6. Particularly moderate Republicans in my district feel as if they’re party is moving in a direction that they don’t recognize. They’re not necessarily ready to embrace the Democratic Party in every way,” Malinowski emphasized. “So this gives them a way to support a moderate Democrat but in a way that’s more in keeping with their values and sends the message that they want to send.”
Malinowski is also keeping his eye on the number one issue among his constituents, which he says is the economy.
“Over the last two years we saved tens of millions of jobs by bringing the American economy back from death’s door. Now we’ve got to save the paychecks that go with those jobs by addressing the supply chain crisis, gas prices and inflation,” the congressman said.
“What we’re seeing is that where Republicans are actually in power in states like Texas, they’re not actually doing anything about the economy,” Malinowski said. “They seem to be obsessed with culture war issues like banning abortion and censuring schoolbooks and rolling back protections for lesbian and gay Americans. That’s not what most voters in my district want the government to be focused on right now. They want us fixing the economy.”
But one of those culture war issues — abortion — may benefit Malinowski.
With the Supreme Court’s conservative majority likely to overturn the landmark nearly half-century old Roe v. Wade, the issue of abortion is once again front and center. And many Democrats say such a scenario would energize their party’s base, including suburban women who helped carry Malinowski and other House Democrats to victory and enabled them to capture the chamber’s majority in the 2018 midterms.
“If the Supreme Court does what we expect it to do, that would be terrible for the country, but it will also serve as a reminder that the Republican Party is doing things that the overwhelming majority of Americans consider outside the mainstream,” Malinowski argued.
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He emphasized that “the overwhelming majority of my constituents, whatever their personal beliefs on this complicated issue, don’t want to go back to a time when women and doctors were treated as criminals for making decisions on their pregnancies. In past years Democrats ran on this issue. We said that if you elect Republicans, this might happen. Most voters didn’t believe it. They thought that Roe v. Wade was the settled law of the land. Over the coming months it’s going to be clear that the Republicans meant exactly what they were saying.”
And Malinowski warned that “we’re going to see not just the Supreme Court decision, but laws enacted or snapped back into place in state after state that criminalize abortion even from the point of conception, even when the life of the mother is at risk. It’s going to get very real very soon.”
Malinowski, who served on the National Security Council during then President Bill Clinton’s administration and as a deputy Secretary of State during then President Barack Obama’s administration, faces token opposition in Tuesday Democratic primary.
The Republican he narrowly edged two years ago, Tom Kean Jr., is the clear favorite in a jam-packed GOP primary.
Kean, a former longtime state lawmaker who has the backing of national Republicans, is the son of former two-term Republican Gov. Tom Kean, who more than three decades after leaving office remains a beloved figure in Garden State politics.
Malinowski says that the younger Kean’s political pedigree “kind of cuts both ways for him.”
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“This is a guy who’s lived his entire life off his father’s name while shredding his father’s legacy. If you’re a Tom Kean Republican, you ought to be willing to say that a violent attack on cops and the Capitol of the United States was not legitimate political discourse. He refuses to say that. He’s put to mailer to Republican voters saying Tom Kean supports the Trump agenda. That’s not what his father would have done,” Malinowski argued.
“What people love and remember is the legacy of Republican moderation. What they’re turned off by is the extremism of the modern party and that’s what Kean Jr. has completely embraced,” said Malinowski, who was born in Poland before moving to New Jersey at age 6.
Kean, in an interview with Fox News, spotlighted last year’s findings by the House Office of Congressional Ethics that found that Malinowski had failed to disclose stock trades within 45 days, which federal law requires.
“Tom Malinowski violated a law that was supposed to stop insider trading by members of Congress over 140 times,” Kean said. “That’s unacceptable. He’s earned himself a bipartisan ethics review because he hid millions of dollars in stock-in-trade.”
And Kean claimed it’s “clear that Tom Malinowski thinks he operates by a different set of rules than others” and that his actions during his time in Congress “will be playing a role because people realize it’s a continued pattern of how out of touch he is with the needs and the concerns of the district in the East Coast that he represents.”
Responding to Kean’s comment, Malinowski said “I fully owned and took responsibility for filing some of my disclosures late — went above and beyond what the law requires by setting up a fully blind trust for my life savings.”
And taking aim at Kean, he argued that “if they want to run a campaign against me based on that, probably not a good idea to run a guy like Kean, who has lived off the stock market exclusively all his life, including multiple pandemic related investments, investments in Chinese companies that are helping the Chinese military compete against ours. Kean is not a great candidate if you’re going to be trying to run a campaign based on stock market investments.”
Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this report