Rosemary Becchi will drop her bid for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district and instead challenge Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) in the next-door 11th district, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Becchi will switch from a challenge to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) — and a primary against Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) – for what is increasingly looking like a clear path to the GOP nomination against Sherrill.
Her entrance into the race provides Sherrill with the kind of well-financed opponent that Republicans had been searching for.
So far, the only Republican to emerge as a challenger to Sherrill is Larry Casha, a former Kinnelon councilman and GOP state committeeman.
Some GOP county chairs have reached out to Casha, who appears willing to drop his House bid.
”I’m still digesting the entire thing right now,” Casha told the New Jersey Globe.
A potential self-funder, trucking company executive Jerry Langer, had explored a race against Sherrill but has not taken any steps to run.
She has not yet released her 4th quarter 2019 fundraising numbers but Becchi had raised $387,712 as of September 30, her Federal Election Commission reports show.
Sherrill has raised more than $2.6 million for her re-election campaign, including $747,000 in the last quarter, and has $2.2 million cash-on-hand.
So far, the only Republican to file is Robert Crook, an accountant who won less than 1% as an independent in 2018.
“The partisan impeachment process in Congress has been eye opening to all of America. It shows clearly that Republicans must take back the House of Representatives,” Becchi said. “Democrat Mikie Sherrill, just like Tom Malinowski, have focused their efforts on destroying a Presidency, not fighting for solutions that we in New Jersey desperately need.
“For that reason, and after being approached by and speaking with multiple Republican leaders in NJ, I have decided to consider running for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District,” Becchi said. “I will make a decision early this week.”
She has told party leaders that she is all-in for the race against Sherrill.
Becchi’s hometown, Millburn, is in the 7th, but she lives just two miles outside the 11th district.
Carpetbagging won’t be an issue for Becchi, since Sherill lives outside her own district in the part of Montclair represented by Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark).
A former tax counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Becchi entered the race against Malinowski last July. Kean, the son of former Gov. Tom Kean and a legislator since 2001, entered the race in April and had raised about $1 million as of his last report.
Kean, the clear front runner, had dominated local GOP endorsements in the 7th district and had the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
With Becchi out, Kean has now essentially cleared the field for his race against Malinowski, a freshman who ousted Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) in 2018.
The other two candidates seeking the Republican nomination, human resources executive Tom Phillips and businessman Rob Trugman, are not serious contenders.
Before going to work for the U.S. Senate, the 53-year-old Becchi was a staff attorney in the office of the chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. She later worked for a top accounting firm, for Citigroup and Fidelity Investments, and has been a partner at two major law firms. She now works for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a Washington, D.C law and lobbying firm.
Becchi is the founder of Jersey First, a grass roots economic advocacy group.
Sherrill raised almost $8.5 million in her bid to flip New Jersey’s 11th district in 2018 and outspent her Republican opponent by an almost 5-1 margin for a seat that Republicans had held since 1984.
It was Sherrill’s early fundraising prowess – she had raised more than $1.2 million by the end of 2017 – that helped frighten twelve-term incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen out of the race. With a warchest of under $1.2 million, Frelinghuysen announced his retirement weeks after Sherrill announced her own fundraising numbers.
She won her House race by 46,262 votes, 57%-42%, against Republican assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) in 2018.
The 11th district has 1,500 more Republicans than Democrats and Donald Trump won it by 1% in 2016 — down from 24,176 when the district was drawn after the 2010 census.
This story was updated with comment from Becchi and Casha.