Christie endorses Lonegan for U.S. Senate

Steve Lonegan faces Cory Booker in the U.S. Senate race.
Steve Lonegan faces Cory Booker in the U.S. Senate race.
Posted: August 22, 2013

FLEMINGTON, N.J. - Gov. Christie on Tuesday endorsed Republican Steve Lonegan for the U.S. Senate, rebuking political observers who speculated that the governor would not campaign vigorously on his former adversary's behalf.

As he delivered a strongly worded, five-minute endorsement for Lonegan in a packed room at the Hunterdon County Republican headquarters, Christie said he had been asked by a reporter earlier in the day "what kind of energy" he would have for his Lonegan endorsement.

"My energy is just fine, and let me say this: This will not be the only time that Steve Lonegan and I are together between now and Oct. 16," Christie said, referring to the forthcoming special election.

Pledging to raise money for Lonegan - who is also slated to receive the endorsement of interim U.S. Sen. Jeffrey S. Chiesa on Wednesday - Christie said: "The apparatus of the Republican Party is going to be behind Steve Lonegan between now and Oct. 16 to bring us to victory. Let there be no doubt in anybody's mind about that, or about my energy for this endorsement."

A former mayor of Bogota, a borough of 8,000 people in Bergen County, Lonegan is running against Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker for the Senate seat that became available when Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg died in June.

Booker led Lonegan, 54 percent to 38 percent, in a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Tuesday.

Lonegan, who until recently served as state director of the group Americans for Prosperity, will present voters a "clear choice," Christie said.

Booker "will support the president at every turn," the governor said, while Lonegan "will make principled judgments" in the best interests of the nation as well as New Jersey.

Lonegan "will be a clear and powerful voice for putting people back in charge of government, not government in charge of people," Christie said.

Booker has been an occasional ally of Christie's, supporting the governor on issues including giving vouchers to students in failing school districts.

Lonegan, a fiery conservative, is a past foe of Christie's, having challenged him in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2009 and claiming 40 percent of the vote.

On Tuesday, Lonegan said he and Christie "do share the most important issues of the Republican Party. We believe in limited government. . . . We embrace free enterprise," not more entitlements, he said.

The coming election, Lonegan said, will be a referendum "on what big, massive bloated government means to us," he said. "We've had enough of Barack Obama's failed agenda."

In a statement Tuesday, Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis noted that Christie had appeared in Little Ferry earlier Tuesday with the U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan, "to highlight the millions of dollars of federal resources that are helping New Jersey families recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy - federal resources that Steve Lonegan still opposes," Griffis said. "This is one case where the schedule speaks louder than words." Lonegan has said he opposes the $50 billion Sandy relief package that Christie had backed.

Christie's Democratic gubernatorial opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono of Middlesex County, also issued a statement through a spokesman, calling Lonegan a "tea party extremist."

"The Christie-Lonegan platform of yesteryear has no place in New Jersey, and voters will soundly reject their extreme views in the fall," spokesman David Turner said.

Lonegan will receive the endorsement of Chiesa, the state's former attorney general tapped by Christie to fill the Senate seat, Wednesday morning at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River, according to his campaign.

Christie said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno also would campaign on Lonegan's behalf.


Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3232 or mhanna@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @maddiehanna.

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