Steve Lonegan admits a lot of the Tea Party candidates running against the GOP establishment are political novices.
But even if they don’t win, they serve a critical purpose, added last year’s movement Republican conservative candidate for governor, who lost to Gov. Chris Christie, 42-55%.
“There is no organization, it’s a movement, and I can tell you, Leonard Lance is going to get the scare of his lifetime,” said Lonegan, referring to U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Lebanon). “He’ll stop prancing around on issues like cap and trade – if he makes it.”
Lonegan said the story is not that three hard right candidates are cannibalizing one another – but that Lance is spending money.
“He’s running commercials,” said the New Jersey director of Americans for Prosperity. “He’d deny he’s running hard, of course, but it’s obvious that he’s repenting his cap and trade vote. With one bad vote, he bought himself a primary.”
That said, Lonegan doesn’t back any of Lance’s three challengers: Bruce Baker, Lon Hosford or David Larsen. (By the looks of his sign campaign – if not his FEC report, unfiled as of last week – Larsen has the most money of the three, but his failure to pay property taxes mired him in headline quicksand just as he was trying to gain traction as the most forceful opposition to Lance).
“The Tea Party votes will cancel one another out,” said Patrick Murray, political scientist and poll director at Monmouth University. “Leonard Lance is extremely popular in Hunterdon County. Even if people over the don’t like some of his votes, they still like him. I don’t think he’s in any trouble at all.”
Perhaps tellingly, Lonegan’s staying out of most primary fights, but he has given money to Alan Bateman, the 4th District challenger to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) – and to Highlands Mayor Anna Little, who’s vying for Republican backing to run against U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch).
Lonegan loves Little.
The former mayor of Bogota plans to speak at Little’s fundraiser tonight at the Shore Casino, where the underdog congressional candidate hopes to land some cash for the final week before the GOP Primary on June 8th.
Little wants to upset establishment candidate Diane Gooch of Rumson.
“Anna Little is one of the brightest and principled candidates I’ve ever met,” said Lonegan, who contributed $500 to the mayor’s campaign. “She takes a position and doesn’t equivocate. You know, they bumped her off the freeholder board for asking too many questions.
“I’m sure Diane Gooch is a very nice person, but Anna Little’s experience as a mayor and lawyer set her apart,” Lonegan added. “She was just phenomenal at our question and answer session. She answered every question and took a principled stand on everything from abortion to illegal immigration. I happen to be partial to mayors and freeholders who run off the line. I did it.”
Lonegan admits it’s going to be tough for Little – or anyone else – to buck the system. He’s not paying any attention to the 3rd District, where renegade Republican Justin Murphy of Tabernacle wants to derail party favorite Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles star.
“There is such a total discontent with the organizations, which is why you’re seeing so many Republican primaries,” said Lonegan. “It’s a manifestation of the Tea Party movement and an acknowledgement that the Republican Party does not have enough backbone to stand up to Barak Obama and the far left.”