CD5 Flashpoint: Lonegan’s Long-Slog Culture War

Steve Lonegan is running for Congress, but his focus seems broader than merely wanting to represent one of 435 districts. Beyond simply talking about low taxes and growing the economy, Lonegan is ready to win a war – right here in the United States.

“This is a cultural war, folks,” he told about three dozen Republicans Tuesday night in Hardyston Township.

And he left no doubt who the enemy is, proclaiming that, “The left is trying to tear down American values.”

This is standard fare for Lonegan, a familiar figure (some may say too familiar) on the state political scene who’s been challenging the status quo – from both parties – for more than two decades now.

On this night, Lonegan came to the heart of Sussex County as part of his campaign to win the Republican nomination for Congress in the Fifth District, which stretches over the northern part of the state from the Hudson to the Delaware. The incumbent is freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

Sussex is different than most of New Jersey. It is a place with lonely, dark roads, dense woods, an occasional farm and a roadside saloon on Route 94 advertising “Rodeo Night.”

It is also a place that is normally quite friendly to Republicans in general and Lonegan’s conservatism in particular.

Lonegan, who made his political mark as mayor of Bogota, but now lives in Hackensack, noted that when he unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate against Cory Booker in 2013  he got  more than 70 percent of the vote in Sussex. He may very well come close to that again in the June primary, but his problem is Bergen,  the largest county in the
district.

Lonegan’s primary opponent is attorney John McCann, a more moderate Republican from Oakland.

Lonegan has little use for establishment Republicans.

When he was elected mayor of Bogota in 1995, Lonegan proudly told the crowd at Tony’s Pizza & Pasta Restaurant, that he embarked on a mission to do what “Republicans say they want to do.”

His point was obvious. While many Republicans in the state may talk about low taxes and smaller government, they don’t follow through after being elected.

Lonegan said he did, bragging that his first move as mayor was to demand that department heads submit budgets lowering expenses by 5, 10 and 15 percent. They balked. A few years later, the borough had all new department heads and when Lonegan left office in 2007, he said the budget was actually lower than it was when he arrived.

Running a municipality, of course, has little to do with serving in Congress. Surprisingly perhaps, Lonegan’s stump speech for the most part ignored federal issues in favor of establishing himself as a “culture warrior” who will fight long and hard for what he sees as traditional American values. To make that point, he pointed to some of his past adventures.

Like when as mayor of Bogota, he refused to comply with state affirmative action requirements. And then there was the time he led a group in singing Christmas carols outside a high school that had done away with a Christmas play. He also took credit for leading a campaign to defeat a referendum backed by then-Governor Jon Corzine to create a stem cell research center in the state, saying scientific research is not the job of government.

Lonegan avoided talking about one of his other battles as a culture warrior. That was his condemnation of McDonald’s for putting up an advertising billboard in Bogota in Spanish.  While this was an endorsement of speaking English, it still seemed a bit odd, given the fact it conflicted with Lonegan’s often-stated belief that businesses should be able to do what they want.

Currently, Lonegan is immersed in yet another offbeat, if not altogether kooky, campaign.

Seizing on a recent photo of Sen. Bob Menendez holding an AR-15-style rifle, Lonegan says the senator should be criminally charged with a gun violation. Such weapons are banned in New Jersey. Lonegan says the fact Menendez held one during a press conference to demonstrate support for enhancing state and federal gun laws is immaterial. He wants him charged.

Lonegan has taken his case to various agencies, including the Essex County Prosecutor’s office. So far, to no avail.

Considering that Lonegan is running for Congress – and not against Menendez – you have to ask why? What is the purpose of such stunts?

To ask the question is to answer it.

One gets the feeling Lonegan’s avoidance of specific federal issues in his talk was calculated.

His campaign appeal is actually more emotional than balanced budgets and less regulation. If you are fed up with an America that has grown too hostile to religion, morality, a traditional lifestyle and the Second Amendment, and too welcoming to undocumented immigrants, “political correctness” and an “anything goes attitude,”  Lonegan’s your guy.

The belief America was a “better” country two generations ago in some respects is why Donald Trump is president.

Lonegan was a Ted Cruz supporter, but he takes solace from Trump, noting that the president carried the Fifth District, albeit slightly, in 2016.

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One response to “CD5 Flashpoint: Lonegan’s Long-Slog Culture War”

  1. Steve Lonegan is a straight shooter that pulls no punches. We are indeed in a battle to elect him. Bergen Republicans have been ballywicked by the party. The do nothing, win nothing party. As a staunch conservative that believes “In Life” I can only supoort Steve Lonegan. Regardless what the feckless leadership and their minions at the the Bergen Republican Party would have you believe . Vote Lonegan!

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