By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
When the decision was made to hold a Special Election following the passing of Senator Lautenberg, one question plagued every political enthusiast: who on earth would be able to collect the one-thousand verified signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot on such short notice? While the task would be a daunting challenge on any occasion, this especially tight time frame ruled out all but the most skilled campaigners, those who already had legions of dedicated volunteers willing to circulate petitions, or those who could afford to hire professionals to do so.
With little time to spare, Steve Lonegan, the former Mayor of Bogota and high-profile organizer spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity, decided to throw his hat into the ring and seek the Republican nomination. His dedicated cadre of volunteers dispersed throughout the state and, against all odds, was able to successfully secure a spot on the ballot. At an event in Toms River last week, Mayor Lonegan boasted that his climb to the ballot was an entirely volunteer effort, supported by true believers, unlike some of his Democratic opponents (who utilized well-paid petitioners). Now, with mere weeks until the primary election, the Lonegan camp is confident about its odds.
“I am well rooted and have substantial knowledge of these issues,” said Mayor Lonegan. “Its kind of interesting because my work has prepared me to be the best suited to [run for Senate].”
Now, with mere weeks until the primary election, Mayor Lonegan has emerged as the frontrunner in a two-person race for his party’s nomination. Running on a conservative platform, the strict Constitutionalist has made great strides in attracting media attention. Though many consider his candidacy a futile cause given the socially progressive nature of New Jersey politics, the candidate remains un-phased by such criticisms. After-all, as was documented in my recent IVN column, he has a trick up his sleeve: of all the candidates in the race, it is Lonegan who is most vocally opposed to the NSA’s surveillance program, a stance that will likely win support from those outside his typical Rightwing demographic.
“I think the issue that cuts deeply across party lines, gender lines, ethic lines, is the invasion of our privacy, “ said Mayor Lonegan, who is open and unapologetic about the fact his campaign will be dedicated to the pursuit of “limited government.” It’s a mantra he has carried for years, though many voters may not be sure precisely what such terminology really means. For the Republican candidate, a former spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity and champion of libertarian values, however, there is much more at stake this election than issues of taxation.
“Limited government is a term thrown around very loosely,” said Mayor Lonegan. “It isn’t just about the size of government and taxes we pay…it goes beyond dollars and cents…it’s about limiting the power of government to intrude into our individual liberty.”
For Mayor Lonegan and his supporters, small government doesn’t have the power to oppress, intimidate, or bully anyone. Washington could still keep the public safe without harassing the citizenry, which is essentially what libertarians argue the NSA has done.
“I don’t want my emails read or gathered or my phone bills collected,” said Mayor Lonegan. “I am a free, law abiding American citizen and there is no way anyone like me should be subjected to that. It’s just an excuse to gather data that’s going to be used in a wide range of [purposes].”
Mayor Lonegan also promises to repeal “Obamacare,” expand the use of healthcare savings accounts, allow people to buy insurance across state lines, and support additional ways to advance “charity care hospitals,” which he believes “were once a major fixture in America for serving the needs of the poor.”
“It is absolutely essential that we return to core constitutional principles,” said Mayor Lonegan, repeating the same message he has delivered for over a decade. If he has his way, however, he will soon be preaching to the Congress, not to the choir.