The race for the 7th Congressional district in New Jersey is the closest it has ever been. Newcomer Tom Malinowski is challenging Leonard Lance who has consistently been viewed as a moderate throughout his career in New Jersey politics.
Malinowski served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Obama Administration. He was previously the head of Human Rights Watch and worked on the staff of the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton. Malinowski emigrated to the United States as a child and was raised in Princeton, New Jersey.
The Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee (DCCC) has labeled this as one of the key districts the Democrats need to win to retake the House of Representatives in November and has given him their full support. In addition, he has received a great deal of support from a variety of political figures, the most prominent being Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).
The race is rated as having a 62.9 percent chance of being won by Malinowski, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Lance first won the seat in 2008. He was previously the Republican Senate minority leader where he was thought to be a moderate where he supported the environmental protection and worked on first responder issues following 9/11.
However, since becoming a Member of Congress, he has taken more conservative positions and voted consistently with the Republican majority. In previous election cycles, he was challenged in the primary which has caused him to shift to the right.
Many felt the district was not winnable for Democrats after it was gerrymandered in 2012 to favor the Republicans. In 2012 and 2014, relatively well-known candidates ran and were defeated.
In 2016, Peter Jacob, a young Social Worker, ran as a Berniecrat and won the primary to be the Democratic nominee. Jacob was not given much of a chance at winning. However, he came closer than previous candidates with far less money.
Thus, the 2018 Democratic primary was very competitive with Jacob and five others running, including Malinowski. Malinowski won the primary against Jacob and one other candidate while the others had dropped out by election day. He has since been running on a progressive platform supporting raising the minimum wage to fifteen an hour and protecting undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, he is very critical of the tax plan that passed last year.
The district itself is quite large, encompassing 74 municipalities in six counties. It is also 79 percent White which makes winning a more daunting task for a Democrat since unlike people of color they are more apt to vote Republican. It is also affluent. However, during the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the district 49 to 47.5 percent.
Incidentally, the district contains Trump’s golf course in the township of Bedminster where he spent much of the summer and was the site of many protests.
In addition, anti-Trump fervor is strong in the district and the surrounding safe blue seats, leading to a surge of volunteers donating their time to the Malinowski campaign. Such activism has been noted by Lance who has seen many, many protests at his district office by the anti-Trump Resistance to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and in support of immigrant rights, among other causes.
And while Lance has called Malinowski a carpetbagger since he is really from Princeton, right outside the district, and subsequently lived in Washington, D.C. as a diplomat, the charge has not stuck.