Bret Schundler's endorsement of Christopher Christie in the GOP gubernatorial primary is significant, although Steve Lonegan's camp will suggest it is not. Support from Schundler makes it more difficult for Lonegan to persuade conservative Republican primary voters to oppose Christie, the former U.S. Attorney who has become the front runner for the chance to challenge Gov. Jon Corzine in the fall. Like U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, whose endorsement of Christie is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval within the pro-life community – a vote Lonegan must win big if he is to be successful in the June primary – Schundler is popular enough with conservatives that his support will be helpful.
Thomas Kean employed a similar strategy in his 1981 bid for Governor, using primary endorsements from U.S. Reps. Jim Courter and Jack Kemp, and 1978 U.S. Senate candidate Jeffrey Bell, to appeal to conservative Republican primary voters.
There is no love lost between Schundler and Lonegan, the former Bogota Mayor who played a key role in Schundler's victory in the 2001 Republican primary. Schundler angered Lonegan two years later when he refused to back a slate of conservatives challenging the Bergen GOP organization in State Senate, Assembly and Freeholder primaries. In 2005, Schundler viewed Lonegan as a spoiler in his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Schundler finished second in the primary, 14,524 votes behind Douglas Forrester. Lonegan finished fourth, with 24,433 votes.