New Jersey is a mostly blue state. Can moderate Republicans find a footing?
The Associated Press declared Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski the winner of New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, defeating Republican Tom Kean Jr. It is a district that spans Hunterdon and parts of Morris, Union, Somerset, Essex and Warren counties.
The district was long-held by the Republican Party. But moderate Republicans in New Jersey appear to be a dying breed – an idea that was underscored by Malinowski’s victory.
“For me personally, this is even more gratifying than the first win in 2018. The Kean name itself, along with others like Whitman, and Frelinghuysen, are symbols of the brand of Republicanism that was long considered a mainstay of New Jersey politics,” Malinowski said. “But the landscape and demographics have changed in recent years - and under Trump, the Republican Party has changed too - in the opposite direction. Leaving moderates like Kean in a no man’s land.”
So, can moderate Republicans survive in New Jersey? Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, who is preparing a possible for governor and is openly critical of President Donald Trump on some issues, thinks they can.
“I ran against the Democrats on my left and two people who said I wasn't Trump enough on my right,” Bramnick says.
The assemblyman says that he still believes in moderate Republicanism.
“The people I've modeled myself after were people like Rodney Frelinghuysen, Gov. Tom Kean, George Herbert Walker Bush, a man of civility. Even Ronald Reagan,” he says.
Bramnick adds, “I think you have to be somebody who shows heart, who shows empathy and who cares about the people. I'm not afraid to say I'm a moderate Republican. You want to say I'm not liberal enough, I'm not conservative enough, take your best shot.”
With a New Jersey gubernatorial race in a year, it's likely much of the nation will be watching New Jersey for signs of whether the Republicans mimic Trump’s style of politics or go back to the middle of the road Jersey-style Republicanism.
Kean Jr. has not yet conceded to Malinowski. His campaign cited that there are 200,000 ballots yet to be counted. A spokesperson for the campaign called the race “far from over.”