Lonegan fires top aide over Booker comments

Democrat Cory Booker, left, and Republican Steve Lonegan shake hands before their first debate of the U.S. Senate campaign in Trenton, N.J., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. The two will face off in their final debate tonight at Rowan University. (AP photo)
Democrat Cory Booker, left, and Republican Steve Lonegan shake hands before their first debate of the U.S. Senate campaign in Trenton, N.J., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. The two will face off in their final debate tonight at Rowan University. (AP photo)
Posted: October 13, 2013

Five days before Wednesday's special U.S. Senate election in New Jersey, Republican candidate Steve Lonegan fired his top strategist over incendiary comments the aide made about Democrat rival Cory Booker's "odd" behavior in a Twitter exchange with a Portland, Ore., stripper.

In a rambling and profanity-laced interview posted Friday by the website Talking Points Memo, longtime Lonegan adviser Rick Shaftan said Booker's messages were "like what a gay guy would say to a stripper."

"It's the way he was talking to her," Shaftan said. "It's just like there was no sexual interest at all. I don't know. To me, if I was single and, you know, like some stripper was tweeting me, I might take advantage of the perks of office, you know?"

Other remarks were too vulgar to be reprinted.

"Mr. Shaftan's comments are not reflective of my views or that of my campaign," Lonegan said late Friday in a statement. "His comments are distasteful and offensive, and his contract as a vendor for my campaign will be terminated immediately."

Booker campaign spokeswoman Silvia Alvarez called the comments "disgraceful, demeaning, and beneath even the incredibly low bar set by the Lonegan campaign thus far."

"If you want insight into the kind of senator Mr. Lonegan would be, start here," she said in an e-mail.

Last month, the stripper, Lynsie Lee, showed the direct messages she had exchanged with Booker to BuzzFeed.

"And the East Coast loves you, and by the East Coast, I mean me," Booker wrote in one tweet.

"Well, now I'm blushing," Lee responded.

The Lonegan campaign did not comment on the matter at the time.

In the interview posted Friday with Talking Points Memo, Shaftan also compared Booker's behavior to that of former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho and onetime Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart.

Craig was arrested in 2007 in an airport sex sting. An extramarital affair dashed Hart's 1988 presidential bid.

Reached by phone Friday evening, Shaftan said, "I can't comment. I'm not authorized to speak on behalf of the campaign at this point."


aseidman@phillynews.com

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@AndrewSeidman

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