New Jersey Congressman Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) has conceded his race for the 7th District, and congratulated the Republican winner, former state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. It's one of the seats that's handing majority control of the House of Representatives to the Republican party.

WNYC host Janae Pierre spoke with reporter Nancy Solomon about why Malinowski lost the race. The transcript of their discussion below has been lightly edited for clarity.

Janae Pierre: The big story at the heart of this race has been the redrawing of Malinowski’s district. Now this is the process that happens every 10 years after the census, and in Malinowski’s case, he lost some Democratic towns and gained extra Republicans. I understand you're hearing fallout about that decision, right?

Nancy Solomon: Yes, indeed. Democratic activists and political reformers are really angry. Malinowski lost by 13,000 votes, and he told his supporters last night he is convinced he would have won if it hadn't been for the redistricting. When he began his re-election campaign, he sent out a one-line press release with a sentence from Shakespeare that said “Unto the breach, my friends, unto the breach.”

And when you say activists and reformers are angry, what do you mean by that?

The central thing that they're mad about is that registered Democrats were moved out of Malinowski’s district to shore up other purple districts that have Democratic incumbents, most notably, U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (in the 5th District), Mikie Sherrill (in the 11th District) and Andy Kim (in the 3rd District). And the criticism falls into a few buckets. (All three of those candidates won by large margins in a year that saw no New Jersey incumbent other than Malinowski lose).

Julia Sass Rubin, who is a Rutgers professor and volunteers with the Good Government Coalition of New Jersey, says that it was unnecessary: “This is a self-inflicted wound, and given that every other state that doesn't have a redistricting commission that is based on citizen participation, which we clearly don't have, is gerrymandering. Why would [Democrats] consciously throw a congressional seat out, particularly in a year when you're so desperate for each congressional seat?”

Sass Rubin points to the two most powerful political machines in New Jersey: George Norcross' machine in the south and the Hudson County machine, where U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has his base. She points out that those are the two most heavily Democratic districts in New Jersey — Hudson, where Menendez’s son just got elected to Congress, and Camden, which is represented by George's brother, Donald.

You said three buckets. So what's No. 2?

There are some activists who just flat out oppose gerrymandering. I spoke today with Amy Higer, who is one of the founders of SOMA Action. That's a group that formed after the Trump election in South Orange and Maplewood, two very Democratic towns that were moved into Mikie Sherrill’s district, and not into Malinowski’s. Her group worked on the Malinowski campaign, and she says she's frustrated with the loss: “Now, we don't support gerrymandering. We shouldn't be doing that. We shouldn't be drawing districts in order to have safe ones for certain candidates, but it seems like that's what they did.”

And Higer says she'd rather see purple districts and wage a fight over the issues, which brings us to bucket No. 3.

OK, then, let's hear that one.

I spoke with Antoinette Miles, who is the political director for New Jersey Working Families Alliance. She echoed the frustration that redistricting left Malinowski with a hill too high to climb, and she thinks the decision by party leaders last year was basically, in effect, an unwillingness to rely on a strong message that will appeal to voters and build the base.

She said: “We need to continue to invest in our base as a Democratic Party and show that yes, we believe in supporting working families and lowering health care costs and all of those things that we find to be important. And we don't need to hedge on these things because they can be proven winners for us.”

Nancy, before we let you go, tell us about the new congressman representing the 7th District in New Jersey, Tom Kean Jr.

He served in the state Senate for 21 years and he's 54 years old. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Westfield. He comes from a long line of elected leaders. His father was a two-term governor. His grandfather was a former congressman. His great-grandfather and great-great uncle were U.S. senators. One side of his family is descended from Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch colonial governor of what became New York, and the other side of his family is descendants of the John Winthrop family, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

And one last thing I want to squeeze in — New Jersey will now have three juniors from political families representing the state: Tom Kean, Rob Menendez and Donald Payne.

Oh, wow.