New Jersey’s 7th District looks like an ink blot smattered across the Northern half of the state, a gerrymandered hodgepodge of pieces and parcels of six different counties and 74 municipalities, including the affluent Short Hills community, a popular bedroom neighborhood for Manhattan commuters.
Republican Leonard Lance has been the district’s man in Washington since 2009. A lifelong pol, Lance got his start in the early 1990s in New Jersey’s State Assembly. Over the course of his nearly 30 years in public office, Lance’s politics have become increasingly conservative. “Lance has moved steadily to the right since he started drinking the water in Washington after winning his seat in 2008. Now, even his admirers are wondering if he’s sold his soul for political advantage,” wrote Tom Moran of the New Jersey Star Ledger’s editorial board.
Clinton eked out a slim margin of victory in the district in 2016, giving hopes that it could be flipped in the midterms. Although there is a crowded field of challengers, one hat thrown into the ring belongs to former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski, 52, who served under President Barack Obama.
A Rhodes Scholar and seasoned diplomat, Malinowski has friends in high places, such as former Secretary of State John Kerry, who will be making sure his former protégé gets an all-access pass on the Democratic Party fundraising circuit.
“It takes a great advocate to be a great member of Congress. Tom is an advocate to his very core, with a fierce sense of right and wrong, and a moral compass always pointed due north,” Kerry said. “He fights for people. It’s just who he is. I saw that firsthand, every day, in the State Department, and I know that’s exactly what he would do in Congress.”
Malinowski’s strategy is simple—he is not Trump and he is not Lance: “I’ve stood up to dictators on behalf of America. I’ll stand up to Donald Trump and Leonard Lance for the people of our state.”