Americans for Prosperity opens a Cherry Hill office

Republican Steve Lonegan, left, will take on Democrat Cory Booker in the Oct. 16 special election for the U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg. (AP photos)
Republican Steve Lonegan, left, will take on Democrat Cory Booker in the Oct. 16 special election for the U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg. (AP photos)
Posted: August 22, 2013

Less than two months before its former state director squares off against Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the U.S. Senate special election, members of Americans for Prosperity celebrated the opening Tuesday of the group's new field office in Cherry Hill.

The conservative nonprofit now has five offices in New Jersey - including another new one in Washington Township - in an effort to expand its influence and voice across the state.

"It'll allow us to go out and meet more individuals and carry our message of economic freedom to a larger community and widen our base," said Daryn Iwicki, the nonprofit's deputy state director.

"We need to get into communities where our message hasn't been heard in the last couple years."

More than 50 people mingled outside the office on Fairfax Avenue off Route 70 as the sun set, and discussed the prospects of the organization and what it aims to accomplish through its new offices.

The opening of the Cherry Hill office comes a week after the group's former state director, Steve Lonegan, won the Republican primary for Senate. Lonegan faces Booker in the special election Oct. 16.

Lonegan resigned from his post with Americans for Prosperity to run for the Senate and does not hold any affiliation with the group, spokesman Will Gattenby said in an e-mail.

The timing of the new offices, Iwicki said, was to educate voters before they go to the polls. New Jersey voters will choose a governor and decide on all 120 legislative seats Nov. 4.

"We want to make sure that folks are well educated on those individuals who are going to represent them in Trenton," Iwicki said.

Americans for Prosperity does not advocate for or against candidates; it looks at candidates' "voting history and their voting record and sees what issues they've taken a stance on, and how that fits into what our core mission is," Iwicki said.

Nonprofits like Americans for Prosperity legally can't "expressly advocate for candidates," said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University. Instead, they back and discuss specific issues, she said.

Americans for Prosperity tends to focus on such issues as cutting taxes and government spending.

Describing the nonprofit's ideal candidate, Iwicki stressed fiscal conservatism.

"We want somebody who's going to be fiscally responsible with the taxpayer's money," Iwicki said. "We want folks who are working for us, working for the middle class."

Although the move to South Jersey during Lonegan's campaign might indicate support for the former mayor of Bogota, Harrison said she thought it had more to do with the governor's race than the U.S. Senate election.

"My thinking is that this is more likely looking at Christie's campaign, not Lonegan's," Harrison said. "They would probably be investing in Gov. Christie with eyes on 2016 than throwing money into a race Lonegan probably won't win."

Booker held a 54 percent to 38 percent lead over Lonegan in one recent poll.

Justin Henson, grassroots manager with Americans for Prosperity, said the group was in the midst of a voter-registration drive, which involves grass roots and door-to-door campaigns. The new offices will help those efforts, he said.

At the Cherry Hill opening, leaders of the nonprofit, as well as spectators like Paul Francis, spoke of the group's missions, centering on lower taxes and more limited government.

Francis said he saw the nonprofit as the start of a movement in those directions.

"I see this as fresh blood toward controlled government," said Francis, of Deptford Township.

Iwicki pushed for a different frame of mind in the state.

"It is time to get some fresh ideas in the state of New Jersey," said Iwicki.

As the Senate and general elections near, Iwicki said the basics of educating voters about policy come down to a simple principle: "Folks coming in, making telephone calls, knocking on doors, and carrying the message of economic freedom."

Contact Sean Carlin at 856-779-3237,, or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.

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