The New Jersey Republicans voted Tuesday — in a low-turnout primary — to nominate Steve Lonegan for the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) term. Lonegan, the former New Jersey head for the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, will face Newark Mayor Corey Booker (D) in an October 16 special election.
Americans for Prosperity is a tax-exempt political group, created and funded by conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. It works to fight “unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship.” Lonegan worked for the group from 2007 to 2013.
As former Mayor of Bogota, NJ and a two-time unsuccessful candidate for governor, Lonegan has made headlines for his climate change denial, hard-line anti-immigrant views, and racially charged statements and campaign tweets:
1. He dismisses climate science as “silly hysteria.” Despite New Jersey’s recent experience with Superstorm Sandy, Lonegan continues to toe Charles and David Koch’s line against climate change science. After Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a former Princeton scientist, ran a primary ad warning of the serious threat climate change poses, Lonegan responded saying, “I signed the No Climate Tax pledge because I oppose the idea of making consumers pay more to fight the silly hysteria that Congressman Holt puts forward in his web video.” Lonegan is a longstanding denier; in 2009 he claimed the science was “not finished,” and that there was “some very doubtful science into whether or not man-made global warming is causing significant climate change, or whether that climate change is bad or not.” He and Americans for Prosperity strongly backed a 2011 New Hampshire bill to leave a regional greenhouse gas compact and encouraged New Jersey to do the same. His current campaign site notes that Lonegan “has been a long-time advocate for keeping energy costs low by opposing the radical ‘Green’ agenda that’s driving electric and gasoline prices through the roof,” and that he “rejects the notion that Americans should have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year to fight alleged ‘Global Warming.'”
2. He once hired undocumented immigrants, but rails against “amnesty.” In June, Lonegan demanded that New Jersey’s interim Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R) vote against comprehensive immigration reform, calling it “pure and simple amnesty for illegal aliens.” As a mayor, he also sought to use local police to enforce immigration law and attacked then Gov. Jon Corzine’s (D) proposals for a state DREAM Act “chock-full of left-wing nonsense that would make this state a magnet for undocumented or illegal workers,” and as a gubernatorial candidate in 2009 he opined that “illegal immigrants should not receive government services and should be deported.” But back in 2007, however, police discovered two undocumented immigrants were illegally working at a home owned by Lonegan. He responded that it was not his job to “racially profile employees” who spoke Spanish and conceded, “These guys need the money.”
3. He does not want anyone speaking languages other than English in this country. In 2006, Lonegan demanded a boycott of McDonald’s after the company posted a Spanish-language ad for its iced coffee on a billboard. The message, Lonegan claimed, was “offensive” and divisive” as it sent a message that immigrants need not learn English. He pushed unsuccessfully for a referendum to declare English the official language of Bogota, New Jersey. And his current campaign website boasts that he wants to make English the nation’s official language.
4. His campaign tweeted a racist “map” of Newark. Last week, Lonegan’s official campaign Twitter feed posted a racist attack against Booker. The since-deleted Tweet read “#breaking just leaked – Cory Booker’s foreign policy debate prep notes,” and included an image of the city of Newark divided up according to various ethnicities. A member of Lonegan’s campaign claimed that the candidate asked for the tweet to be taken down because he “didn’t find it funny or reflective of the way he thinks.”
Lonegan also opposes same-sex marriage, any new federal gun safety legislation, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, federal involvement in education, a women’s reproductive rights.
Despite these far-right views, self-styled moderate New Jersey Congressmen Rodney Frelinghuysen, Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, and Jon Runyan have all endorsed Lonegan’s candidacy. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has kept his distance from the nominee.