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Fighting the ‘Again’ Factor. Will Winning in CD5 Prove Harder than Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro: the Steve Lonegan InsiderNJ Interview

When political observers hear Steve Lonegan is running for office, a logical reaction is, “again?”

That’s bad enough but the next obvious question is even worse. That is, when was the last time he won office? That would be more than 10 years ago when Lonegan served 12 years as mayor of Bogota.

“I have always stood up for the Republican Party,” Lonegan said in a conversation in his Hackensack home over the Christmas holidays.

Now he is standing up to challenge Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer who ousted conservative Scott Garrett two years ago in New Jersey’s Fifth District.

Lonegan says the district always has been Republican and that it should have a  Republican representative in Congress.

All congressional districts are oddly-shaped these days, but that goes double for the fifth. It ranges from the Hudson to the Delaware rivers and covers parts of four counties – Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren. It includes such disparate places as tony Ridgewood and rural
Allamuchy.

John McCann, a Bergen County attorney, is also in the Republican race but for the time being, Lonegan is talking only about the general election, not the June primary.

At 61, Lonegan certainly is a familiar figure in N.J. political circles. Most recently, he ran for governor in the 2009 primary – losing to Chris Christie – unsuccessfully challenged Cory Booker in the 2013 special U.S. Senate election and just two years ago, lost to sitting Congressman Tom MacArthur in the 2016 primary.

Clearly. Lonegan doesn’t buy into the theory that repeated losses hurt a candidate’s credibility.

His political philosophy does not seem to have changed. In short, it is too much government.

“The biggest problem facing the state is the state government,” Lonegan says.

That could be, but this time around, he’s running for federal office.

Lonegan likes the Trump tax cuts, saying they will stimulate growth.

Lonegan endorsed Ted Cruz in 2016.

Not surprisingly, Lonegan parts company with most New Jersey and northeastern Republicans concerned about limiting deductions for state and local taxes.

He said GOP opponents to the Trump tax plan are “yelling and whining like stuffed pigs.”

To Lonegan the problem with local taxes in New Jersey comes down to the power of public unions and state mandates to build low income housing. Of course, he’ll be able to do nothing about those problems as a congressman.

Lonegan boasts that he has the support of all key elected Republicans in Sussex and Warren counties in addition to state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, Bergen County’s foremost conservative.

Endorsements are nice, but what do they really mean?

Lonegan says they’re important as far as building momentum.

Lonegan seems to take pride in offering a contrarian political view more common to Georgia than the Garden State.

Virtually every poll shows Democrats with a big advantage going into the midterm elections. True, these polls are generic and the election is 10 months away. But they have to mean something, no?

Not to Lonegan.

“This will be a good year for Republicans,” he says, convinced that tax cuts and scaling back regulations will boost Republican fortunes,

Since leaving his job as mayor, Lonegan has been active with various conservative economic think tanks and groups. He also is developing a small residential project in Hackensack, which he says is being stymied at times by incessant government regulation.

Lonegan’s career is certainly worthy of respect. Legally blind because of a degenerative disease. Lonegan continues to push ahead, not only in business and politics, but elsewhere. In 2015, he traveled to Tanzania and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, which he called an experience of a lifetime.

But now his ambitions are a bit more grounded. Lonegan wants to go to Washington and support President Trump’s agenda. He says he thinks Republicans got in trouble in New Jersey and Virginia last November because they “ran away from the president.”

OK, but Trump’s approval ratings in New Jersey are horrible. However, Lonegan is looking only at the Fifth District, which Trump carried.

But by only 1 percent.

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