Before primary, GOP's Lonegan takes aim at Booker

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan at the foot of Camden City Hall earlier this month.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan at the foot of Camden City Hall earlier this month. (AP)
Posted: July 20, 2013

New Jersey's U.S. Senate primaries are still a few weeks away, but Republican Steve Lonegan already is taking aim at Democrat Cory Booker.

The two men are both heavily favored in their respective races, so Lonegan is hardly bothering with attacks on GOP competitor Alieta Eck, a doctor from Somerset County, and is instead digging his teeth into the Newark mayor, who leads three opponents.

On Thursday, Lonegan launched a statewide radio ad contrasting his record as mayor of Bogota, a small town in North Jersey, with Booker's tenure. He also went to Newark for a news conference challenging Booker's record on education.

"Steve Lonegan cut spending, froze debt, kept taxes far below inflation. Cory Booker's Newark record? Debt up 57 percent, taxes up three times the cost of living, and the nation's most expensive school failing and funded by suburban taxpayers," the radio ad says.

Lonegan goes on to blast Booker as supporting Obamacare, abortion, "green energy rip-offs," and other liberal causes.

"New Jerseyans are fed up with Barack Obama and Cory Booker and their radical left-wing agenda," Lonegan says.

Responding to the ad, the Booker campaign pointed to the mayor's vow to be a uniter.

"It's disappointing that Mr. Lonegan has chosen to introduce himself to New Jersey by falsely attacking the progress that's been made in Newark," the campaign said. "Americans are sick of these sorts of dishonest partisan attacks. They want people to go to Washington to bring people together and get things done. That's what Mayor Booker will do if New Jersey voters give him the privilege of representing them in the Senate."

The ad and response likely signal the tenor of a Booker-Lonegan campaign following the Aug. 13 primary. The special Senate election is Oct. 16.

Lonegan's attack - and one last week challenging Booker's proposals to fight child poverty - comes as some of Booker's Democratic rivals have challenged his credentials on the left.

Lonegan began his day in Newark, questioning whether Booker supports school vouchers.

"Cory Booker has failed the children, the parents, and the taxpayers of Newark in never providing school choice and never solving the deep problems confronting Newark," said a Lonegan release.

Booker, who does not have direct authority over Newark schools because they are run by the state, has supported vouchers. Lonegan took issue with a comment by a Booker spokesman last week: "In areas where schools are currently failing our children, however, [Booker] believes that parents should have options."

Booker's spokesman elaborated Thursday: "Mayor Booker's first priority is strengthening public education so that every American child has access to high-quality public schools. There are too many places where schools are chronically failing our children, and he believes that where that is happening, parents must have options. We cannot afford to lose out on the promise of any New Jersey child by condemning her to a failing school. One of the most urgent callings of our democracy is to ensure that every child - rich or poor, urban or suburban - has a clear pathway to nurture their genius through a great public education."


Contact Jonathan Tamari at jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari. Read his blog "Capitol Inq" at www.inquirer.com/capitolinq.

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