Inquirer Editorial: It's Lonegan's turn to bear GOP standard

Steve Lonegan
Steve Lonegan
Posted: August 05, 2013

New Jersey's strange special election to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg has left perennially rearguard Republican Steve Lonegan in a novel position: front-runner. Lonegan has made a career of fighting the GOP establishment and much more. But thanks partly to the resulting notoriety, he is favored to win the nomination this time around.

Lonegan is also in the unusual position of general agreement with his only opponent, Alieta Eck. The Somerset County physician and political newcomer shares most of Lonegan's conservative positions, but she lacks his record as an activist and politician. And while her practice and advocacy of charity medical care are commendable, they fall well short of a sensible foundation for federal policy.

STEVE LONEGAN is the better choice to face the Democratic nominee in the fall. The former budget-wrangling mayor of a small Bergen County town, Lonegan earned a larger following with a series of legal challenges to Trenton's runaway borrowing. He later led a crusade against Gov. Jon Corzine's toll-hiking plan that at one point got him arrested. And he is a capable advocate of fiscal as well as military restraint in Washington.

Both Lonegan and Cory Booker, the celebrity Democratic favorite, have developed an unfortunate habit of avoiding their primary opponents. But if both are nominated and anyone can get them in the same room, the debate promises to be healthy and spirited.

This narrow Republican field, however, speaks poorly of Gov. Christie's leadership of his party. The governor devised an absurd special-election schedule, culminating just three weeks before the regularly scheduled election, probably to keep Booker from affecting his reelection returns. He thereby helped ensure that the GOP would have less time and reason to field a competitive candidate. Although Booker had a significant advantage going into the race, Christie's effective concession to the Democrat has done the voters a disservice.

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