Christie camp criticizes Lonegan over signature challenges

Without mentioning gubernatorial rival Steve Lonegan by name, the Chris Christie campaign chastised him for removing three lesser-known Republican candidates from the primary ballot.

Lonegan successfully challenged the petition signatures of Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine, inventor David Brown and corrections officer Christian Keller.

“They worked hard, brought diverse ideas to the table and added to the debate over the last few months,” said Christie Campaign Manager Bill Stepien. “It's a shame that some saw fit to spend taxpayer dollars trying to knock good candidates off of the ballot.”

Lonegan and Christie both accept matching funds from the state, which none of the other Republican candidates qualified for.

Unless Levine and Brown are successful in their appeals, the Republican gubernatorial primary field will be narrowed down to just three candidates: Christie, Lonegan and Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham).

Since Christie is the presumed frontrunner, the Loneagn campaign benefits by having as few candidates on the ballot as possible.

Lonegan strategist Rick Shaftan said that his campiagn challenged the many of the other candidates' petition signatures because there were many from registered Democrats, independents, third parties and people who were not registered to vote.

"The point is to nominate a Republican candidate you have to have signatures from 1,000 people eligible to vote in the Republican primary," said Shaftan "If Chris thinks that we shouldn't have a signature requirement at all, that's a different conversation, and if he thinks the rules should be so open, shouldn't he just get rid of his county organization columns?"

  Christie camp criticizes Lonegan over signature challenges