Lawmaker Erik Peterson joins a throng of Republicans running for Congress

Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski seems positioned to lose his seat in the House of Representatives one way or another, as mapmakers added thousands of additional Republicans and subtracted many of the Democrats who provided his margin of victory in the closest congressional campaign in the country.

Malinowski—who has not said if he intends to seek another term or plans to run in the district he currently represents—may have the formidable challenge of facing a stronger contender than the son of former Republican Governor Thomas H. Kean.

Among those lining up to challenge Tom Kean Jr. —who came within one percentage point of defeating Malinowski last year—for the Republican nomination are Fredon Mayor John Flora, 2020 GOP US Senate contender Rik Mehta, John Isemann and Summit businessman Robert Trugman, who have been joined by conservative Assemblyman Erik Peterson.

Kean’s moderate-to-liberal views on domestic issues, similar to those of US Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, were once common in northeastern states, while the constituencies in the South and West.

In 1964, political operative Stuart Spencer called on the New York Governor to “summon that fabled nexus of money, influence, and condescension known as the Eastern Establishment” but Rockefeller lost that race to conservative Barry Goldwater, then the Reagan Revolution and the America First era brought on by Donald Trump have fundamentally changed the philosophy among many Republicans.

Northeast, liberal Republicans have continued to win elections. Kean and his son—who just surrendered his role as state senate minority leader— are among that cast, which includes Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, Bill Weld and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont, and Larry Hogan of Maryland.

It remains an understatement to say Rockefeller Republicans are out of step with today’s GOP, even if those with ‘old money’ continue to hold an outsized degree of control over the party’s political apparatus.

Kean has been all but anointed as the choice of the GOP political establishment while his rivals are starting from scratch in whan may be a contest for the heart and soul of New Jersey’s right-wing party, which is still populated by many Rockefeller Republicans who cry “It’s My Party, Too” and share liberal views that distinguish them from the red-meat eating majority among local activists.

Those “Never Trumpers” represent a continuation of the Whig tradition of American politics and may be described as a separate political ideology, aligning with liberals on issues more than with conservatives.

Mehta set the record for the most votes ever received by a statewide Republican candidate in New Jersey, passing the mark held for 48 years by Clifford P. Case, when he tallied 1,817,091 votes as President Donald Trump’s running mate in his challenge of incumbent Democratic Senator Cory Booker.

While few would be stunned to discover that Tom Kean Jr. is actually part of a cabal of Satan-worshiping cannibals who operate a child sex trafficking ring, since many are already convinced that prominent Democrats are among such groups, his conservative rivals for the GOP nomination oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, human cloning, and even sexual relationships outside of marriage.

The New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission eliminated Millburn in Essex County, heavily Hispanic Dover in Morris County, and a few Union County communities and towns in Somerset County that were not inhospitable to Democrats while adding 24 towns in Warren County and Sussex County, which Donald Trump won by about 12,000 votes.

The GOP primary competition is cruscial because the disadvantages caused by redicstricting are enough to put the incumbent on an endangered list but with less than four full years in Congress, he is already mired in scandal.

Twice in the past year Malinowski has been the subject of FACT complaints filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics. A March 2021 complaint charged that Malinowski failed to disclose up to 90 stock trades valued between $671,000 and $2.76 million in 2020.

Even more egregious, Malinowski continued to buy and sell stocks without disclosing the transactions even after it was made public that he had failed to comply with the law, whichresulted in a second July 2021 complaint.

The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated, and found that despite having monthly statements containing the information needed to file his disclosure report and reminders from his staff, Malinowski failed to report transactions made between January 2019 and January 2021.

Then after these failures became public and the OCE began its investigation, Malinowski again filed late reports. Moreover, even in the corrective filings Malinowski made and his 2019 financial disclosure report, the OCE found other additional “errors and omissions.”

The OCE concluded that Malinowski knowingly failed to enter reportable PTR transactions into the online reporting system in accordance with STOCK Act deadlines, intentionally conflated PTR transactions he did report, did not disclose short sales in a consistent manner (or according to his stated intent), and failed to properly disclose assets and transactions on his 2019 annual financial disclosure statement.

After acknowledging these failures, he knowingly filed additional PTRs with late reportable transactions.

The OCE referred Malinowski’s case to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is currently investigating.

The STOCK Act was passed in 2012 in order to combat insider trading by members of Congress and congressional staffers, and it requires that members disclose trades and other transactions of stocks, bonds and similar securities within 45 days.

In recent months, literally dozens of members of Congress from both parties have made headlines with delayed filings but Malinowski’s case is among the most egregious.

There’s no telling what nasty secrets will emerge about Kean, Flora, Mehta, Isemann, Trugman, or Peterson once the campaign starts in earnest but between the partisan map and Malinowski’s missteps, it is likely that the Republican nominee will go to Congress.

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