The End of Lonegan?

By Jeffrey Page

New Jersey seems to have a rule against electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate, most likely because the state GOP has convinced itself that Jersey is a sleeping conservative giant just waiting to be awakened by the kiss of a right wing, anti-choice, anti-Obama, anti-tax firebrand. And if he’s anti-evolution as well, so much the better.

But Jersey Republicans pay no mind to polls indicating that as the party veers to its right – and then to the right of the Tea Party – it loses popularity at every step. New Jerseyans loathe taxes as much as Grover Norquist, but lean at least slightly left in most other respects.

And from Bergen County along came Steve Lonegan, whose political resume highlights his three terms as mayor of Bogota, a place where nothing much happens.

Lonegan secured the senatorial nomination and smug liberals smiled. Goofy Steve Lonegan? The guy who’s against everything? Never happen.

Except it almost did happen, and while Lonegan said on election night this week that this was his last run for elective office, his showing was strong enough to cause observers to look twice and to cause Lonegan to think twice. An almost-win for Lonegan, the candidate who would do away with Social Security and Medicare if he could only persuade 300 million other Americans to join the fight. He got 44 percent of the vote in losing to Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Who is Steve Lonegan? The Record’s political columnist described him as “colorful and ultra conservative,” which tends to libel all the other colorful ultra conservatives who live in New Jersey. Lonegan is not colorful. Lonegan is grim.

During the campaign against Booker, Lonegan described Newark, the state’s biggest city, as “a big black hole” into which millions of dollars of state tax revenues have been poured.

It was an unfortunate description. Booker is a black man. African-Americans comprise 53 percent of Newark’s population. I can’t believe that someone in the Lonegan campaign didn’t whisper in his ear that you don’t refer to such a city as a black hole, no matter what you think of it and no matter how clever you think you are.

Lonegan has a fast lip. I imagine he thinks of this as a strength, but often he reveals himself to be a stammering dolt. In debate with Booker, Lonegan said, “You may not be able to swim in [the Passaic] river, but it’s probably, I think, because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city.” No one swims in the Passaic except demented fish; bodies are not routinely dumped in it. That makes Lonegan either ignorant or a jerk.

Lonegan opposes the very existence of Social Security and Medicare, opposes the minimum wage, opposes abortion in any circumstance, and of course he believes that Obamacare is the work of the devil. Or of Karl Marx. Or was it Mitt Romney?

Lonegan may have been at his cruelest when talking about the victims of Hurricane Sandy as reported by Mother Jones Magazine: “That is tragic for them to see their home being destroyed, but remember that every day around this country, somewhere, somebody is suffering a tragedy of equal or worse impact and we don’t run and hand them a check.”

And he might have been his most inane when, in 2006, he attacked McDonald’s for putting up a billboard in Bogota with a picture of a glass of iced coffee and with the words “Un frente helado se aproxima” – a cold wave is coming.

He said the billboard suggested that Bogota – it was named for the Bogart family, early European settlers – was home to hordes of illegal immigrants. Lonegan couldn’t be bothered with the fact that 39 percent of Bogota’s population was counted as Hispanic in the 2000 census and that if you’re illegal and hiding out, you don’t submit to the census enumerator.

His outrage was restricted to the McDonald’s sign. In classic Lonegonian logic, he had nothing to say about the signs in Italian identifying La Famiglia Ristorante or the sign in Korean outside the First Evangelical Church with its mostly Korean congregation.

You can laugh at Lonegan. You can dismiss him as loopy. But while you’re breathing that sigh of relief over his loss to Cory Booker, don’t forget that number – 44 percent of the vote. Lonegan will be back.

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7 Responses to “The End of Lonegan?”

  1. Marshall Rubin Says:

    I disagree with the claim that the election between Lonegan and Booker was close, especially since there was a ten-point voter spread. “The Governor,” Chris Christie set up the date of this election for fulfilling the term of Frank Lautenberg, to minimize voter turnout, and to maximize Christie’s chances next November. Christie got it right, date-wise–there was a light turnout, but yet the Democrat STILL won. Booker’s margin of victory was way above Obama’s throughout the nation in 2012.
    It’s up to us to make sure that the tea party-poopers are further marginalized as we remind voters next year of what the Repugnant Party just pulled. In the meantime, give Booker the credit he deserves. In a very short campaign time he won, and he won BIG!

  2. Ken Says:

    Lonegan should check Jersey City. In 2001, a man named Schundler was elected mayor of Jersey City. The ethnic and political makeup was similar to that of Jersey City. Schundler was as far to the right as Lonegan. He was also a Christian Fundamentalist. Why was Schundler elected? He attracted jobs to Jersey City.

  3. Jeffrey Page Says:

    Marshall, I was not out to minimize Booker’s success, but the fact is no one believed Lonegan could grab 44 percent of the vote.


  4. Jeffrey Page Says:

    Ken, That was Bret Schundler who was a favorite of Newt Gingrich. Schundler was named state education commissioner by Chris Christie — and summarily fired not long afterward when it became known that the Education Department’s filing of incorrect forms cost the state $400 million in federal education aid.


  5. Marshall Rubin Says:


    Remember that Lonegan got 44 percent of a very low voter turnout. That probably amounts to maybe 10 percent of all eligible voters in NJ.

  6. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    Wow, I’m with the big guns here as far as political knowledge. I’m posting anyway on a few points with all due respect. First, I think all the racial overtones we are hearing nationwide as well as in this race are DELIBERATE!!! Think about the campaign against Muslims and Latinos. Blacks remain on the target.

    Also, the Koch brothers threw a lot of money into Lonegan’s campaign and he still lost. That’s hopeful especially in an election that was basically off the calendar.

    Now, northern Jersey may be liberal but I assure you that my family members from south Jersey are all pretty conservative and I would not be surprised that if they voted at all, they voted for the “party pooper” (love that phrase, thank you.)

    I do agree we need to remain totally vigilant to keep this right wing, insane, agenda at bay. Thanks for a thoughtful piece, Jeff.

  7. Ken Says:

    Jeffrey Page . I remember Schundler running for governor and losing. His right wing views cost him.

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