Runyan writes of why he's not running again

APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 29, 2014

WASHINGTON - In football, U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R., N.J.) wrote in a Politico Magazine essay published Friday, it was at least clear who his opponents were.

In Washington, the Eagles offensive tackle turned South Jersey congressman wrote, he couldn't even count on that much.

For example, while Democrats were on the other side of the aisle, he was so infuriated by Republicans who voted against a disaster relief aid package after Hurricane Sandy that he carried a list of GOP House members who had accepted federal aid in their districts but had scorned New Jersey.

"Many of these members had previously requested aid for their own districts following other natural disasters. I actually carried the list of those members in my lapel pocket for weeks following that vote," Runyan wrote in his first extensive public comments on his decision not to seek reelection after two terms.

"Individual personalities and self-serving strategies had become the focus of our attention - a classic example, you could say, of guys playing to get to the Pro Bowl rather than the Super Bowl," he wrote as he decried Congress' dysfunction.

Runyan's piece touches on many of the same themes Republican allies mentioned when he announced his decision in early November. But this was the first in-depth explanation he had given about leaving Congress.

As he did in a brief announcement in November, Runyan mentioned the sadness of missing family moments. He described saying goodbye to his youngest daughter as he planned to leave a family reunion early to return to Washington. He also wrote of missing out on the chance to be with his son on the day the St. Joseph's Prep offensive lineman got a scholarship to play football at his father's alma mater, the University of Michigan.

But much of the essay was devoted to Runyan's dissatisfaction with the constant brinkmanship in Congress ("all of it leaving me quite frustrated and my constituents scratching their heads") and the struggle to pass a Sandy aid package as his devastated district - which includes large parts of Burlington and Ocean Counties - tried to rebuild.

Senate Democrats, Runyan said, passed a bill "laden with sweeteners" while 179 House Republicans refused to support even what he said was a "pork-free" version.

Runyan's frustrations led to a decision not to seek reelection this year, turning his moderate district into a top-tier battleground.

Aimee Belgard, a Burlington County freeholder, is the only Democrat in the race so far.

Republican Steve Lonegan, who ran for U.S. Senate last year and has twice run for governor, filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 21. The longtime Bergen County resident and former Bogota mayor lists Lavallette as his home.

Lonegan had said previously that he was moving to the Shore town and planned to run, against the wishes of local party leaders who prefer a more moderate candidate in the swing district.

The Burlington and Ocean county GOP organizations, however, have yet to coalesce around a candidate, leaving Lonegan as the only Republican in the race so far.


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