One of Steve Lonegan's more outlandish claims in his campaign for Governor is that he would be the strongest GOP candidate against Jon Corzine. One's first instinct is to suppress laughter at this ludicrous assertion, inasmuch as he has lost every race he ever entered outside his small hamlet of Bogota, for County Executive, State Senate, and Governor. What's more, his tax plan, which would raise income taxes on 70 % of NJ taxpayers, which is not going over well in the Republican Primary, would seem to give the Democrats precisely the only issue with which they could possibly divert the public's attention away from their record.
Perhaps the biggest reason Lonegan is NOT the strongest candidate, however, rests with Lonegan's own Illegal Immigrant Scandal, which broke in 2007 in all the state's major newspapers. This scandal, and the way Lonegan handled it, would give serious ammunition to Jon Corzine to use against him in a general election, and raises serious questions about his judgement and candor.
The facts are not in dispute — in October 2007, Steve Lonegan was caught red-handed by the police in Bergen County, having hired undocumented aliens to put up lawn signs for his "non-profit" organization, Americans for Prosperity.
The Associated Press reports that at first Lonegan said the workers "approached his taxpayer advocacy organization . . . looking for work." (AP 10/13/07)
Lonegan reacted with a tirade against his police department, blaming local cops for picking on him, and racial profiling the illegals. (Ignore the irony that this is the same Lonegan who tried to stoke white voter resentment by publicly criticizing McDonalds for having a bi-lingual sign).
Lonegan then changed his story, not for the last time, about how he hired the illegals. From the Star-Ledger (10/15/07): "Lonegan changed his story about how he came to hire the two illegal immigrants. In earlier news reports, Lonegan said the two men came into his second-floor office on River Road looking for work. According to Lonegan's earlier explanation, he dropped the men off at his house on Bogota Gardens . . .Yesterday he told the Star-Ledger that the men did not come to his office looking for work. ‘We went and picked them up,' Lonegan said. Pressed for further details about where he found the men, Lonegan said: ‘I gotta tell you the truth, I don't know. Somebody from my staff— I don't know exactly where they were standing."
It gets better. The Bergen Record reported the next day that "the two undocumented workers hired by Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan last week disputed his account of events. . .saying he sought them out for work and never asked whether they were legal residents . . ."
The truth was finally revealed – the Record reported that "the Guatemalan men . . .said Monday that two men – a driver and passenger they later identified as Lonegan from a photograph – picked them up along the Route 46 ramp . . .a popular spot for day laborers in search of jobs."
Lonegan said that his flip-flopping explanations and changing stories "doesn't matter to me" and that he "will hire anybody I want."
Our next Governor picking up illegal immigrants along an exit ramp on Route 46, getting caught lying about it, and saying he can hire anybody he wants, even illegals?
This is the Steve Lonegan that Corzine would caricature, and the biggest reason he is the GOP's weakest link.