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GOP Congressman Leonard Lance Defends Brett Kavanaugh

Vulnerable GOP Congressman Leonard Lance Supports Kavanaugh—Democratic Opponent Tom Malinowski Hammers Him “Big Time” October 3, 2018

By now, many of us have seen Dr. Christine Blasey Ford courageously and credibly give her account of how Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, attempted to sexually assault her. Contrast her testimony with that of Kavanaugh’s conspiracy tantrum accusing the Democrats and the Clintons of plotting payback against him. All of this unpleasant testimony, to paraphrase Dr. Ford, has become permanently stored in our own brains’ hippocamupuses. Kavanaugh’s meltdown shows he is judicially unfit to impartially judge cases on the High Court. Yes, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called for a one-week FBI investigation of these charges after being confronted by victims of sexual assault in an elevator. However, don’t rely on Flake or any other GOPer to vote against Kavanaugh after this brief and narrowly-tailored FBI investigation. Remember GOP Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) emotional rant? In it, he called himself “a white S. Carolina single male whose comments must not be suppressed.” Graham’s tirade said exactly what the GOP Senate Judiciary members and their base all believe—Kavanaugh must be confirmed, and Democrats must never win ANY election after what they did to “victim” Kavanaugh. Graham’s comments made for great comedy with SNL’s Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of him, but we must take Sen. Graham and his fellow “Team Red” members seriously. Republicans, led by obstructionist and angry Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), intend to rile up their “Red” State base members to keep the Senate. The House is another story. Kavanaugh’s rants and the GOP’s reactions to them are driving women, including many suburban-leaning college educated Republicans into the Democratic camp. Control of the House will hinge on who wins many of these suburban districts in VA, CA, PA, and NJ (See nytimes.com, Martin & Burns, 9/29/18). Alexandra Lapp, who runs the leading House Democratic super- PAC, stated with regard to Kavanaugh’s testimony, “It’s like they’ve got a strategy to drive their support among suburban women down into the teens and they’re executing it brilliantly (nytimes.com, Martin & Burns).”

Even before Kavanaugh’s kindergartenesque meltdown testimony, GOP Cong. Leonard Lance told a group of Rutgers University College Republicans, “I think Judge Kavanaugh is a brilliant judge and I tend not to believe the charges (nytimes.com, Schweber & Corasaniti, 9/28/18).” This audio clip became part of a digital advertisement released by Tom Malinowski, Lance’s Democratic opponent. In the full video, Cong. Lance stated that he tended “not to believe any person who says, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to testify on it.’” Malinowski aptly stated, “to say in advance of any hearing that you don’t believe the victim is exactly the sort of thing that causes so many victims of sexual assault not to come forward (nytimes.com, Schweber & Corasaniti).” After Dr. Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony, Cong. Lance called her “credible,” but also said Judge Kavanaugh was “credible in his own defense (nytimes.com, Schweber & Corasaniti, 9/28/18).” Who is this Cong. Lance?

Five-term Congressman Leonard Lance (66) currently represents NJ’s 7th Congressional District, CD. The NJ 7th is located in the Garden State’s north central part. It includes all of Hunterdon County and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union, and Warren Counties. Fast-growing Hunterdon County has the fourth-highest median household income in the U.S. The 7th contains horse country around Far Hills and Bernardsville where Malcom Forbes owned a huge estate. Those towns, located in Somerset County, have the sixth-highest median household income among U.S. counties. The communities of Summit and Westfield, with median household incomes near $120,000, as well as Milburn and tony Peapack and Gladstone are also in the 7th. The NJ 7th includes Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, where Donald spends a good deal of his time (monmouth.edu/polling, 9/20/18). Thirty-two percent of the 7th’s population lives in Somerset County, 25% in Union County, and about 18% in Hunterdon County. The 7th also includes Hispanic working-class Dover (Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs). Pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and manufacturing constitute the 7th’s economic pillars. Merck & Co. is headquartered in the 7th and Roche Molecular Systems makes blood screening supplies. AT& T’s headquarters is located around Far Hills and Bernardsville (Barone & CQ 14).

The western counties of the 7th provide support for the GOP. Western Hunterdon County sends some of the most conservative members to the NJ state legislature. Union County is Democratic-leaning. In general, the7th’s voters are split relatively evenly between Dems and GOPers. In 2008, Obama eked out a 1-point win. After the 2010 redistricting, which added some GOP towns to Hunterdon County, Romney won the 7th by 5 points. In 2016, Hillary took the 7th with a 1% margin. The latest Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) gives the 7th an R+3 score (CQ 14, Cook Political Report, 4/07/17, “Daily Kos Elections’ presidential results by congressional districts, 2016 & 2912”).

Leonard Lance’s family has lived in Hunterdon County since 1710. The house that he lives in was built in 1780. Lance’s father was a state senator who became the NJ State president where he helped shape that state’s Constitution. His great-uncle served in the NJ Legislature (CQ & Barone 14, leonardlance, freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com). Lance received his undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in 1974 and a 1977 law degree from Vanderbilt. After working as a court clerk, Lance obtained a 1982 Master’s in Public Administration from Princeton University. For seven years, Lance served as GOP Gov. Thomas Kean’s assistant counsel. In 1991, Lance won election to the NJ State Assembly where he served through 2002. In that body, he made a name for himself as a budget hawk. He opposed legislation making it mandatory for pharmacies to fill prescriptions for birth control pills, including emergency contraception (CQ & Barone 14). After the incumbent GOPer in the 7th CD stated he would not run for re-election in 2008, Lance ran. He won the GOP primary and although Obama carried the 7th in the presidential race, Lance beat his Democratic rival by 8 points. He has since coasted to re-election. In 2016, while Hillary won the 7th, Lance clobbered his Democratic rival by 11 points (nytimes.com/elections, 8/01/17).

Lance talks a “good game” about being a “moderate.” However, his overall congressional record puts him in the conservative camp with his fellow right-wingers. Despite saying he endorses abortion rights, Lance voted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood in 2011. He voted in favor of former hard-right NJ GOP Cong. Scott Garrett’s budget proposal in 2011 to cut spending, even further than then Budget Chair Paul Ryan did (CQ 14). Lance has voted with his hard-right “Team Red,” 86.1% of the time in the current 115th Congress. As of 9/2018, Cong. Lance has voted in line with Donald 88% of the time. As of 9/26/2018, Lance is the 31st-most partisan Trump supporter in the House when compared to his district’s voting patterns (projectsfivethrityeight.com). Translation: in his fairly evenly split NJ 7th, Lance is voting up there with “ultra-Red” Southern and Rocky Mt. GOPers. Lance initially endorsed then NJ GOP Gov. Chris Christie for President. He endorsed nominee Donald in the general election stating that, “I have always supported the Republican nominee for President dating back to my first vote for Richard Nixon in 1972. Donald Trump will have my enthusiastic support for President (observer.com, 5/04/16, Pizarro).” Yes, it’s always the party standard-bearer, even if he was involved in Watergate or has misogynistic attitudes. Lance has a lifetime 23% score from the League of Conservation Voters (scorecard.lcv.org).

Lance initially opposed Obamacare. He voted against it in 2009 and repeatedly voted to repeal it. Analysts have described Lance as NJ’s “most vulnerable Republican lawmaker in a state that clearly doesn’t like Trump (NJ.com).” With this political calculus in mind, Lance has “flipped” on health care. When fellow NJ GOP Cong. Tom MacArthur’s bill to repeal Obamacare came to the House floor in 5/2017, Lance was one of 20 GOPers to vote against it, taking a liberal position (newsweek.com, 5/05/17, Lanktree). Lance also quickly “deviated” from a GOP obsession, tax cut reform for the top 1%. He voted against this bill in 12/2017, arguing that it would hurt NJ residents who had high property taxes (politico.com). IMHO, Lance was more concerned with his own political survival here, or “looking after #1,” him.

Lance’s Democratic opponent Tom Malinowski correctly pegged Cong. Lance’s voting record. He accused Lance of “shifting to the right when he was scared of the Tea Party, (in 2010 and 2012 several Tea Party primary challengers went after Lance), and now he’s moving to the left when he’s scared of his increasingly moderate and energized constituents (Salant, nj.com, 5/14/18).” A native of Poland, Malinowski came to the U.S. at age 6 with his mother. He was raised in Princeton, NJ, where he wrote for the high school newspaper and interned in the office of then Dem. Sen. Bill Bradley (allgov.com). He received his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley in 1987 and obtained a Master’s at Oxford in 1991 where he was a Rhodes Scholar (all.gov, state.gov, biography). From 1994-1998, Malinowski wrote speeches for Clinton Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright. From 1998-2001, Malinowski served as Senior Director on Clinton’s National Security Council (state.gov). From 2001-2013, he was the Washington Director for Human Rights Watch. In that post, he advocated for ending torture under W Bush’s administration. He campaigned for democratic reforms in Myanmar. He stood for women’s rights as a pre-condition for any peace with the Taliban (washpost.com,12/16/05, 3/21/17, 8/15/10).

Under Pres. Obama, Malinowski served as Assistant Sec. of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from 2014-2017. In this post, Malinowski spearheaded efforts to assist persecuted religious minorities targeted by ISIS in Iraq. He oversaw efforts to sanction N. Korean officials for human rights abuses and assisted U.S. officials with sanctioning Russian officials for violating human rights (foreign.senate.gov, upi.com, 4/27/16, wash.post.com, 1/09/17). He helped lobby Congress in an effort to keep Trump from lifting sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Malinowski criticized Trump for having an “obscene fondness” for the world’s tyrants (politico.com, Glasser, 6/19/17).

Malinowski decided to run for Congress after Trump’s election (Bloomberg.com, Hunt, 5/02/18). He strongly supports Obamacare and wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. He is against Trump’s anti-immigration stance and tearing up alliances. He wants to invest in infrastructure and protect the environment, which Trump is gutting (insidernj.com,nbcwashington.com, 5/27/18).

The evenly split NJ 7th, remember, voted for Hillary in 2016, but went for the NJ GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2017. A recent Monmouth Poll found Malinowski in the lead but within the margin of error. A NY Times Upshot/Siena Poll showed the two candidates in a statistical dead heat. Analysts see Lance’s comments bolstering Kavanaugh and questioning Dr. Blasey Ford as “jolting” this race. Malinowski and his fellow Democrats have condemned Cong. Lance’s remarks (nytimes.com, Schweber & Corasaniti, 9/28/18). However, the Koch Brothers have already given “moderate” (LOL) Lance $5,000, Dems must answer in kind (seeprwatch.org). There are many Dems and independents in this affluent and educated district “thinking” of voting for Malinowski. They must be encouraged not only to “think” about going for Malinowski, but also voting in droves for him on 11/06/2018. Flipping this seat “Blue” will help Democrats re-take the House and check Demagogue Donald.