Can a staunch conservative who unabashedly opposes President Barack Obama on everything — from taxes to health care to National Security Agency surveillance — win in deep-blue New Jersey?
Steve Lonegan thinks so — and is campaigning to prove it.
Lonegan, a former Republican mayor of Bogota, New Jersey and former statewide director of the free-market activist group Americans for Prosperity, has filed to run in a special election to fill the Senate vacancy created by the recent death of Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
It will be an unusually short campaign season. The primary election to determine the Republican and Democratic candidates will take place on Aug. 13. The winners of those races will then have a mere eight weeks before the voters of New Jersey make their decision during an Oct. 16 special election three weeks before the general election.
There will be no candidates for other offices or ballot initiatives for voters to consider, giving Lonegan a unique opportunity to keep the campaign focused on one thing: Obama.
“We have this standalone election, which is going to be a pure referendum on President Obama’s agenda,” Lonegan told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Lonegan’s views are mostly the opposite of that agenda. As a dedicated constitutional conservative, he opposes the president’s policies on taxes, health care, financial regulation and the environment.
But Lonegan also plans to make an issue of civil liberties.
“I will force the Democrats to become apologists and excuse-makers for Obama’s surveillance techniques,” he said. “I will make that an issue.”
Recent revelations about the federal government collecting telecommunications data on millions of Americans have alarmed voters across the political spectrum. While some Republican, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have defended the Obama administration on this issue, others, most notably Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, condemned the federal government’s surveillance programs.
Put Lonegan in Paul’s camp.
“The worst manifestation of bad government is interventionist government that interferes with our privacy and lives and collects data about Americans,” he said.
The recent revelations regarding NSA, IRS and Department of Justice, coupled with the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, have deepened Lonegan’s opposition to Obama.
“My opinion has gone from, ‘I will give the guy a chance’ to ‘he’s dangerous,’” he said.