(Bloomberg) – Republican Thomas Kean Jr. ousted U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski from New Jersey, ABC and NBC said in a closely watched congressional race in which stock trading and loyalty to Donald Trump were key issues.
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The GOP victory in the Garden State dealt a blow to the Democrats, who captured the seat in 2020 in a close race between Malinowski and Kean. He avenged a defeat for 54-year-old Kean, whose father Thomas Kean served as governor on two terms in the 1980s.
Kean led the race with 52.2% of the vote versus Malinowksi’s 47.7% as of 9:36 a.m. Wednesday with 95% of the vote tallied, according to the Associated Press.
Both candidates addressed their campaign parties around midnight, with Kean pledging to lead this nation “to greater prosperity and greater affordability.” As Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” blared through the speakers, he thanked Malinowski for his “witty campaign” and “years of service.”
Malinowski performed at his campaign party in Garwood, New Jersey to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” to applause from several hundred supporters. “We shouldn’t be standing still at 11:45 p.m. on election night,” he said. “There is no question that we would win hands down in the original district.”
On Wednesday, Malinowski congratulated Kean and said he was encouraged by the appearance of the Democrats in the US.
“While we’ve done as well or better than 2020 in the communities I’ve represented over the past four years, and I expect the results will continue to worsen as all votes are counted, the new district proved to be too big a hurdle to overcome,” he said in a statement.
Last year’s re-election of constituencies gave Republicans an advantage in Malinovsky’s territory, giving the party a new reason to spend money there to reverse the Democrats’ narrow majority in the House of Representatives. New Jersey has 12 seats in the House of Representatives, 10 of which are held by Democrats.
The race, in a wealthy belt that runs through the center of the state, was the most competitive in New Jersey. Malinowski’s two terms in the 7th congressional district have been taken as evidence that the state is becoming bluer and bluer. In 2018, he broke the GOP’s 38-year stranglehold on the seat.
The state has a Democratic-controlled governorship and legislature, and has had a Democrat-elected president since 1992. However, Republican Donald Trump supporters have been gaining ground in rural New Jersey in state and local races.
A year ago, the Senate President, a Democrat and senior lawmaker, lost to a New Jersey truck driver and a Republican newcomer. Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was nearly defeated for a second term by Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli last year.
Read more: Murphy scrapes through as New Jersey governor and survives GOP challenge
Malinowski, 57, a Polish-born Ringoes resident, has served in diplomatic roles in the presidential administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Malinowski is subject to an ethics investigation related to stock transactions. In June, he told the Congressional Ethics Office that he “didn’t put enough pressure on myself” to set disclosure deadlines from January 2019 to March 2021, a move he called “just careless.” A broker, not Malinowski, conducted the purchase and sale, the congressman said. His holdings are now in a blind trust.
An ad by Kean criticized Malinowski’s trades, saying he had “abused people’s trust.”
A vote to force more trade disclosures from members has been postponed by the House of Representatives until after the midterm elections. Republicans targeting Democratic seats have made a campaign issue over alleged violations of Congressional stock trading laws.
In August, after several members of Congress — but not Malinowski — were acquitted of failing to disclose their stock activities, the National Republican Congressional Committee labeled Malinowski’s buying and selling a “pandemic stock-trading frenzy.” It used Malinowski as an example for voters to “retire Nancy Pelosi,” referring to the Democratic House Speaker.
Kean, who lost by 1 percentage point to Malinowski in 2020, shied away from the media for this campaign. A Malinowski television ad portrayed Kean as a member of the “MAGA crowd” — a nod to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Kean’s abortion record also played a role: Kean had declared himself a supporter of women’s suffrage in October and days later came out in favor of a 20-week ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life or health of the mother or fetus.
According to Federal Election Commission reports, Malinowski had $2.8 million in his campaign account at the end of October, more than double Kean’s. The House Majority PAC has paid nearly $1.5 million in television advertising expenses.
However, Kean’s campaign also received impetus from outside spending groups, including the Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee. As of Oct. 26, they had collectively spent more than $4.1 million against Malinowski, according to OpenSecrets.org.
(Updates with Malinowski concession in paragraph 6.)
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