Tom Kean Jr. vows to be ‘independent leader,’ fight inflation after flipping House seat red in New Jersey

EXCLUSIVE: Rep.-elect Tom Kean Jr., the Republican responsible for flipping a House seat in New Jersey on Tuesday, says he is looking forward to working on behalf of his constituents and has vowed to be an “independent leader” in Washington, D.C.

In the race to represent New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, Kean ousted incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, who had held the seat since 2019.

In his first interview since defeating Malinowski, Kean told Fox News Digital he won the election by listening to voters and described what’s next as he prepares to join the GOP ranks in Congress.

Describing what he believed was a propelling force for his victory in the race, Kean, who represented District 21 in the state senate from 2003 to January 2022 and served as senate minority leader during his tenure, said, “I took my campaign directly to the voters.”

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Tom Kean Jr. speaks at his election night party in Basking Ridge N.J., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
(AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

“I listened to their concerns,” he said. “The main issue that people in this district cared about was affordability — the highest inflation rate in 40 years, broken supply chains, the fact that we don’t have a secure southern border, or that we’re not manufacturing things here, that we’re not energy independent — those are the things people cared about. I had a 20-year record as a state legislator fighting for affordability, so people knew I would be a trusted voice on their behalf.”

Emphasizing that he has “always been an independent voice,” Kean, the son of former GOP New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, vowed to be an “independent leader” for the 7th District in Washington and declared that “Malinowski was more beholden to his leadership” in the House than he was to his constituents.

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Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Nov, 30, 2018.
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Asked about the “red wave” several Republicans had predicted ahead of the midterms, and why he believes that didn’t play out, Kean said, “I can’t speak to any other district but my own. My campaign was focused on the 95 towns within the 7th Congressional District.”

Kean, who will take office Jan. 3, said he and his wife would be taking a Sunday trip to the nation’s capital for the first portion of the Congressional orientation process.

The GOP representative-elect said he is focused on continuing conversations with residents of the 7th District about their concerns and “creating district offices,” noting there will be “a number of them.”

Tom Kean Jr. arrives at his election night party in Basking Ridge N.J., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
(AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

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Upon taking office, Kean said he will be focused on “affordability” for his constituents.

“We need to stop the irresponsible spending that has caused the highest inflation rate in 40 years,” he said. “We need to create new economies so that we can have more manufacturing here and be energy independent, and those are the things that are important to the people of the 7th Congressional District. And I look forward to working on their behalf to get that done.”