LAVALETTE – A clutter of reporters on a slice of sidewalk in front of the bay watched slow car after slow car pass until one of them, an SUV with tinted windows, made a wide arcing turn in front of the local firehouse here, stopped, and deposited CD3 movement conservative candidate Steve Lonegan and his wife.
They waved, Lonegan’s tie flapping as they headed to vote under a dour, sour, overcast sky in this sea-faring community.
“It’s a clear cut race – conservative versus liberal,” Lonegan cracked, when NJTV reporter Michael Hill stuck a microphone in his face.
Lonegan’s running today for the GOP nod against former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur, who threw gobs of money into this CD3 GOp Primary contest to try to neutralize Lonegan.
Lonegan ran last year in a statewide general election against U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and dented him before losing.
While refusing to concede that he’ll do anything other than win tonight, he nonetheless also expressed a jaded outlook on the two big party organizations that aligned with MacArthur against him.
“These organizations are patronage-based,” Lonegan said, giving a nod to the Ocean and Burlington GOP. “They’re about control, jobs and contracts. We’re running on ideology. That’s the difference.”
The movement conservative said he felt disrespected and he pointed the finger in particular at the long shadow of Ocean County Repulican Chairman George Gilmore.
Gilmore appeared to play footsy with Lonegan during the pre-primary season before dumping him in favor of MacArthur.
“This is what they did, after what I did last year, when I stepped up and ran against the Democrats’ superstar, and won this district, seven months later, they do this,” he said.
Does he blame Gilmore?
“I do, yes,” Lonegan said.
Asked if he thought the machines here were musty at all, the former mayor of Bogota added, “We’ll see tonight.”