On the issues, Steve Lonegan has proven himself to be well versed , prepared and experienced. As a former mayor he understands the ramifications of the legislation and mandates that come out of Trenton. In the previous two parts of our interview, Steve Lonegan didn’t just argue for a conservative approach to state government and governance, he demonstrated the how’s and whys of wrong minded liberal leadership. At the same time he presented concrete, conservative solutions to the problems that liberal leadership have presented us with today.
In this final part of our interview, I asked Mayor Lonegan about his campaign.
His campaign raised a few heads when late last year, Steve Lonegan stated that he would accept public matching funds in his race. Some saw that move as hypocritical, others, like Lonegan simply see at is playing by the rules of the game that we have to deal with.
Of course Jon Corzine won’t have to play by those rules. He has the luxury of reaching into his own wallet and financing his campaign on his own. After all, that is how he won his last two statewide campaigns. He bought both his seat in the United States Senate and his office in Trenton. And oddly enough, the so-called “rich” Republicans running for Governor in New Jersey, do not have the independent wealth of a limousine liberal like Corzine, so, by accepting matching funds, they are assuring themselves of having at least enough money to let people know that they are running against Corzine.
So far, Lonegan has raised over half a million dollars. That amount puts him significantly ahead in the field of current and potential candidates. As for those who may have had any doubt about how serious a run for the nomination Lonegan would make, the half a million he raised and the half a million that he will receive in matching funds makes for a million reasons to take his candidacy seriously. And that is just so far. More money is coming.
When asked if expects to be able to raise enough money to bring his name ID up to the level of Chris Christie, his major rival for the nomination at this point, Lonegan feels that he will raise an amount of money comparable, if not even, to Chris Christie.
As for raising enough money to be competitive with Jon Corzine if Lonegan is our Republican nominee for Governor, Lonegan states “I don’t need to outspend Jon Corzine to win”. “We need to have enough money to get our message out” he added.
Lonegan believes that Corzine has to raise and spend tons of money, maybe even an historic level of campaign spending all to simply defend his record,. Lonegan made it clear that Corzine has to explain why he created “the highest taxes in the country and an economic decline which has our friends and neighbors leaving the state”.
Lonegans punctuates the spending question in this campaign by adding “I think Corzine should spend $75million or $100 million dollars. I think that could be the best economic stimulus package New Jersey could see”.
That statement could be funny if it were true, but the state of New Jersey has no major media market of its own and so much of the campaign dollars spent in the race for Governor of Jersey will be split between the New York media market in North Jersey and the Philly media market in the south. So even a boondoggled bundle of bucks in our state’s own election won’t benefit New Jersey that much.
- “If the primary ends up being a hard hitting, bloody battle, well so be it. Let’s get ready for the general election” -Steve Lonegan, 1/21?09-POLITICS 24/7 Interview
That aside, with all things being equal, I asked Lonegan how he would describe himself and his political ideology to me, a self-proclaimed, “bleeding heart, Jack Kemp, conservative who is a heavily armed dove“. To which Lonegan replied that he is a “principled conservative who believes in free-market principles and values of limited government and lower taxes who has been elected three times in a small town that is 2 to 1 Democrats to Republicans”.
But with the Republican field for Governor already comprised of another self avowed Conservative in Assemblyman Rick Merkt and will soon be having another in Mayor Brian Levine of Franklin Township, I asked Lonegan how he would differentiate himself. To that he replied, “I raised half a million dollars”.
Aside from that, the Mayor did admit that he and Rick Merkt “agree on a lot” and that he is “great and has a great record and is a terrific guy”.
- Levine “has positioned himself as a pro COAH and Abbott funding moderate, so that will be interesting” -Steve Lonegan, 1/21?09-POLITICS 24/7 Interview
As for Brian Levine, Steve Lonegan has to muster up the desire to speak nearly half as nicely.
After saying that Brian Levine is a nice fellow, he throws in the fact that Levine is a small town mayor, and that,is something Lonegan likes. But that is about as far as the liking goes. Once those platitudes were over Lonegan stated “that Levine has positioned himself as a pro COAH and Abbott funding moderate, so that will be interesting”
With that out of the way, the Mayor agreed with me on the fact that Republicans need to be unified in November and so I asked him he could promise to keep the campaign civil and avoid any mocking tones and obey Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment which dictated that “thou shall not speak ill of fellow Republicans”.
That so called commandment was first uttered by Reagan during his 1966 primary for the Republican nomination for Governor of California.
As for employing that phrase here in the 2009 Republican primary for Governor of New Jersey, Lonegan stated “Oh, absolutely. There is no need for personal attacks or mocking tones, however we will be hard hitting on the issues and the record”.
He added, “if you can’t make your way through a good, hard hitting, primary, how do you expect to take on Jon Corzine’s millions of dollars?”. So I will put my record up against anyone and I will be looking very carefully at Mr. Christie’s record and his positions on the issues and we will define the differences. If that ends up being a hard hitting, bloody primary, well so be it. Let’s get ready for the general election”.
So it looks like the stage is set for a few battles. One will be for the hearts of the conservative wing of the party. That battle may include Chris Christie if he gets off of the ideological fence but it will certainly include Merkt and Levine against Lonegan.
The other battle will be for the minds of all Republicans. That battle will not only include the emotionally charged ideological arguments but the electability argument as well.
It is on that argument that Steve Lonegan may have his greatest challenge and in that challenge he may not be making things any easier for himself.
Some may think the electability question may be raised by what a few see as Lonegan’s brashness. But what they may see as brash others see as open and honest.
For me the potential drawback to Lonegan’s success here, lies not so much in Lonegan himself as it does in his choice of staff.
Until now, one issue in particular, has not come up in the shaping primary race but I am afraid it might. That is the selection of Steve Lonegan’s campaign manager, Kevin Collins.
The selection of Kevin Collins as his campaign manager could create a problem.
The source of the problem dates back to an incident in 2007.
Collins designed a campaign mail piece in a Republican state senate primary against State Senator Kevin O’Toole.
Senator O’Toole is of Korean descent. And the piece referred to his Korean ancestry by claiming that O’Toole exploited his heritage by claimimng to be a minority and asking for special rights when his senate district lines were being redrawn during the redistricting process. The Collins campaign mailer described Kevin O’Toole as “The Republican Al Sharpton” for taking advantage of minority rights protections. It also included a photo comparisson of the two.
The mailer was a low point for Republicans. It was typical race baiting and should not have ever been considered by Collins or the candidate on whose behalf the mailer was sent out. Worse than the mailer were some of Kevin Collins’ replies to accusations over the mailer. At one point Collins said:
“We could have altered the photo. We did not. We could have made a more jaundiced look to his skin. We did not.”
The judgment was so bad that Collins was even officially rebuked by all thirty of the Republican assembly members serving at the time.
In a unanimously signed letter, the 30 assembly Republicans wrote “Mr. Collins has crossed a line and we believe it would no longer be appropriate for him to do work on behalf of any candidate running as a Republican in this state”.
When asked about the incident Steve Lonegan replied “ Since then, even Kevin O’Toole has hired Kevin Collins”
A call to Senator O’Toole’s office to confirm that statement was not responded to but Lonegan went on to say “I don’t think the Republicans should have the democrats telling us us how to run our own campaigns”.
Problem is, it is not Democrats who joined together in denouncing the Collins mailer and requesting that Collins have no part in Republican campaigns in New Jersey. It is fellow Republicans who have decided that.
A call to Assembly Republican Minority Leader Alex DeCroce about this matter also went unanswered so we have no idea where assembly Republicans stand on their banning of Collins but others are not so quiet about the Lonegan hiring.
Jonathon Kim, President of the Korean Association of New Jersey called Lonean’s hiring of Kevin Collins “disturbing”and he thinks the Mayor might be “shooting himself in the foot” by hiring Kevin Collins.
To this Lonegan simply replied “well, he’s wrong”
For his part Steve Lonegan says “Kevin Collins is an effective individual, knows politics and has outstanding character and integrity”. and that he “will not have someone on his/my campaign personally attacked by Democrats”.
But it may not even get to the point where Democrats have the chance to do the attacking.
Lonegan first has to get through fellow Republicans and one cannot help but wonder if this issue will be brought up among his rivals or any of the Republicans who, back in 2007, declared Kevin Collins persona non grata in New Jersey.
Personally I have no hard feelings either way. The O’Toole mailer does seem to be a bit over the line but I am not sure it is a demonstration of politics at its worst. However my real concern is the effects of Lonegans’s decision to hire Collins during the general election.
If this incident is not addressed and gone by then, what if Steve Lonegan does become the Republican standard bearer? Do we want our conservative candidate for Governor being attacked and labeled as insensitive to minorities or of running a campaign prone to racial divisiveness?
Come November, we will need every vote we can get to win. Such a victory will need to tap into almost every demographic we have, including the significant Korean population of the state, a population which is quite Republican oriented.
So I do hope that this issue gets addressed sooner rather than later and I do also hope it does not damage the chances of Lonegan’s promising campaign.
Kevin Collins is a decent man and he has done some good work including the work of challenges that some may have turned away from.
When Hillary Clinton was running for relection in New York, few came forward to challenge her and fewer volounteered time and money to campaign against her but not Kevin Collins. He managed the campaign of Hillary Clinton’s opponenet, John Spencer.
The same holds true of New York’s Chuck Schumer whose most recent opponent, Howard Mills was also managed by Kevin Collins.
Collins also managed past efforts for some candidates which I hold in high esteem. One of them is former GOP Assembly Republican Majority Leader Paul DeGaetano (in fact, he is one person I wish was running for the job of Governor this time around).
So Collins has paid his dues and fought the hard fights and along the way, everyone is entitled to a mistake or two. But this is politics and whether we like it or not, everything is on the table, including Collins mistake.
Hopefully it is not an issue that will blow up. Hopefully the past actions of Assembly Republicans regarding Collins and Lonegan’s present actions of hiring Collins as his campaign manager can somehow be balanced.
It is hard to quantify Lonegan’s decision in bringing Collins onboard the campaign. Some could say it is a courageous call on Lonegan’s part. Others may say it was a stupid decision that opens Lonegan up to attacks that can further advance liberal accusations that Republicans are out of touch with and insensitive to racial concerns.
Either way, on both the issues and his approach to the issues, Steve Lonegan’s campaign promises to be the stuff that political drama’s are made of and he will be the one candidate in this election who is certain to grab headlines.
CORRECTION: Rick Shaftan, a strategists and aide in the Lonegan for Governor campaign, alerted us of an inaccuracy in the above post. In it we attributed the quotation known as Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment to Ronald Reagan himself. Mr. Shaftan made it known that the quote was first used by Gaylord Parkinson who was the California Republican State Chairman who used it in response to attacks on Reagan during his primary for the california gubernatorial nomination.
Mr. Shaftan pointed out “The Eleventh Commandment is quoted most of the time by liberals who would never quote anything Reagan said. It’s ironic that when they quote it, they are not quoting Reagan”.
We thank Mr. Shaftan for his historical accuracy and hope he was not calling us at POLITICS 24/7 liberal.
Maybe there is something to the pseudoscience of face reading! When I first looked at corrupt Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich‘s face (I like to refer to him as Gov. Doucheblag), the dude who was charged with attempting to sell President-elect Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder (!!), I immediately thought, OMG, he looks just like Lyle Menendez! All you true-crime aficionados out there know who I’m talking about: Lyle and his brother Erik were charged with murdering their parents and then going on a shopping spree with their credit cards in Beverly Hills in the ’90s. Good times . . .
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Results for the latest POLITICS 24/7 poll are in!
As for who you want to see be the next Chairman of the Republican National Committee
the results are as follows:
40% - KEN BLACWELL
20% - SAUL ANUZIS
20% - MICHAEL STEELE
7% - KATON DAWSON
7% - CHIP SALTSMAN
7% - Other
0% - MIKE DUNCAN