CREDIT: AP Photo/Mel Evans
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) endorsed Steve Lonegan (R), the former New Jersey head for the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, for U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Though Christie ran in 2009 promising a middle-of-the-road “common-sense approach,” this move puts him squarely behind a far-right Tea Party candidate best known for his attacks on immigration and Spanish-language ads — and his own record of hiring undocumented immigrants.
In his unsuccessful 2009 gubernatorial primary campaign against the now-Governor, Lonegan remarked, “It’s clear to me that Mr. Christie is in over his head,” and ran as the more conservative candidate. But Christie’s record closely mirrors Lonegan’s on key issues:
1. Both ignore climate-change science. Lonegan, whose longstanding ties to Charles and David Koch make his position unsurprising, has called climate science “silly hysteria.” His campaign site website boasts of his opposition to “the radical ‘Green’ agenda” and spending money to combat “alleged ‘Global Warming.’” As New Jersey head for Americans for Prosperity, he strongly backed a 2011 New Hampshire bill to withdraw the Granite State from a regional greenhouse gas compact and urged New Jersey to do the same. Though Christie, who had been skeptical of climate science, conceded in 2011 that “climate change is real,” he still followed Lonegan’s advice and pulled New Jersey out of the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. After Superstorm Sandy ravaged New Jersey, Christie incorrectly claimed there was no proof that climate change had had anything to do with it.
2. Both strongly oppose marriage equality. Lonegan’s website makes clear that he does not support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples: “Steve believes in the long-standing definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman and opposes the federal government forcing gay marriage on states.” He bashes his opponent for supporting, “the federal government mandating gay marriage on all 50 states, including all government benefits,” and has warned of “an all-out assault on the sanctity of marriage and the family in this country.” Christie vetoed a marriage-equality bill last year, claiming that marriage equality is not about “gay rights.” Though a super-majority of New Jersey voters support marriage equality, Christie’s administration continues to fight a court challenge which to allow New Jersey families to have equal legal rights as guaranteed by the state’s constitution.
3. Both have fought women’s health access. Steve Lonegan, who says he his “pro-life” and won’t apologize for it, wants to defund Planned Parenthood, saying since the women’s health provider also offers abortion services, “I would defund it, absolutely.” Christie, the first New Jersey governor to oppose abortion rights since Roe v. Wade, eliminated $7.4 million in family planning funds and rescinded a state application for federal family planning funds.
4. Both want to undermine Obamacare. Lonegan proudly proclaims that he was “one of the earliest opponents of the President’s Health Care law and organized thousands of New Jersey taxpayers to fight it.” Now he backs “full ObamaCare Repeal” and vows to “use his power as a United States Senator to block funding and implementation of this dangerous proposal.” Christie twice vetoed a bill to allow New Jersey to setup a health insurance exchange under Obamacare and has called the universal healthcare law a “sad legacy” for President Obama.
5. Both opposed a state-level DREAM Act for undocumented youth. Lonegan, a fierce opponent of what he terms “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, attacked a proposal by then-Gov. Jon Corzine (D) to offer in-state tuition to undocumented youth going to state colleges and universities as “chock-full of left-wing nonsense that would make this state a magnet for undocumented or illegal workers.” Christie also panned the idea: “I do not believe that, for the people who came here illegally, that we should be subsidizing, with taxpayer money, through in-state tuition, their education.”
6. Both want to funnel public funds in private and parochial schools through vouchers. Lonegan says the federal government’s involvement in education has been “an overall negative” and that he is a “strong supporter of school voucher and tax credit ideas that put parents in charge of their children’s education.” He has criticized his opponent for not doing enough to implement school vouchers. Christie also strongly backs school vouchers, pushing to siphon public funds to private and religious schools. Both have claimed that this competition — and accompanying reduced funding — will somehow improve under-performing public schools.
7. Both oppose popular gun violence reduction measures. Lonegan says he “supports the individual right to keep and bear arms and opposes new federal gun control laws.” In endorsing his candidacy, far-right icon Phyllis Schlafly praised him for his consistent support for the Second Amendment. Christie opposed New Jersey’s one-gun-a-month limit and has been strongly critical of President Obama’s approach, calling instead for “violence control.” This week, he even vetoed a ban on military sniper rifles — that he had earlier proposed — and blocked legislation to expand background checks for private gun sales.
Lonegan, a former Mayor of Bogota, NJ, and a two-time failed gubernatorial candidate, will face Newark Mayor Corey Booker (D) in an October 16 special election to fill in the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) term. Christie’s handpicked interim Senator, Jeff Chiesa (R), will also endorse Lonegan Wednesday.