While Christie takes pains to reaffirm his admiration for Booker, Lonegan has exposed his Democratic rival as a corrupt, self-dealing dissembler on whose watch Newark’s crime, unemployment and general deterioration have worsened. (See James Stimpson’s campaign column at the American Thinker, describing how the unsavory Booker has managed to embarrass even reliable Lefties.) Lonegan, by contrast, is a self-made American success story.
Born into modest means but a strong work ethic, Lonegan was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 14. He rejected the prospect of a life on disability subsidies, overcame the loss of much of his eyesight, built a kitchen-cabinet business from nothing into a thriving metro-area concern, earned an MBA from Farleigh Dickinson University, and entered politics. A plainspoken conservative Republican, he was elected three times – twice by double-digits – as mayor of Bogota, a Democrat stronghold. A Tea Party favorite, Lonegan has become a renowned champion of limited government and debt-slashing, particularly as the director of Americans for Prosperity’s New Jersey chapter.
The Republican establishment, long resigned to Booker’s triumphant arrival on Capitol Hill, has followed Christie’s lead in leaving the party’s candidate to fend for himself. The National Republican Senatorial Committee – the GOP’s fundraising arm for Senate campaigns – has given Lonegan no help, while Booker (helped by national Democrats, Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Spielberg, Ben Affleck, et al.) has outraised him at an 8-to-1 clip. Yet, Lonegan has run a spirited, highly effective campaign, fueled by the Tea Party and such conservative stars as Mark Levin, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. He easily bested Booker in the sparsely watched debates and has cut deeply into the Democrat’s once seemingly insurmountable lead.
Can he win? The latest polls, while tighter, still show Booker ahead. The battle is uphill, and Lonegan has had to fight it without assistance from his own party. But the election occurs amid the embarrassing rollout of Obamacare, sticker-shock over which has enraged the union voters desperately needed by Democrats in an irregular election that will be all about turn-out. The Tea Party may be outnumbered in Jersey, but it is energized. And for all his life, people have been telling Steve Lonegan what he can’t do … while he keeps proving them wrong.