Steve Lonegan, a libertarian-leaning former mayor, is running slightly behind self-funded insurance executive Tom MacArthur in a sharp-elbowed New Jersey GOP primary race for a House seat.
The two candidates clashed repeatedly during a May 21 radio show, when MacArthur portrayed Lonegan as a big spender, and Lonegan portrayed MacArthur as a crony capitalist tool of the Chamber of Commerce.
Lonegan said that MacArthur won the chamber’s support by agreeing to back the “comprehensive immigration reform” plan, which would increase levels of immigration. “You have to answer ‘yes’ to that question to get that endorsement,” Lonegan said.
MacArthur admitted that he supports the legal equivalent of amnesty for the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. “I’ve said the same thing to anyone who has asked me and that is I oppose amnesty,” MacArthur said. “I believe we need to send illegal immigrants that have committed a crime home to their country of origin.”
However, the illegal immigrants who have not committed a crime could be given a “path to citizenship [that] has to be tough but fair,” MacArthur said. The illegal immigrants would get citizenship — and the right to vote — MacArthur said, after they pay back taxes, learn English, and are put “at the back of the line.”
Amnesty critics say those conditions won’t be enforced, partly because there’s no way for the government to assess the past earnings of illegal immigrants. Also, prior immigration deals have only required that illegals enroll in English classes, not that they actually prove that they know English.
The number of illegal residents in the country is roughly equal in number to all Americans aged 18 to 20. They’re valued by the business lobby as extra workers and consumers.
Lonegan argued that immigration is “the biggest issue facing the country today.”
Critics of the current large-scale immigration say it undercuts Americans’ salaries by flooding the labor market with one immigrant and one short-term-guest worker for every four Americans who graduate each year. The inflow will boost profits on Wall Street, according to economists and the Congressional Budget Office.
The Senate immigration bill supported by the chamber would roughly double the current inflow of foreign workers and legal immigrants.
Lonegan argued that MacArthur — who was an insurance executive at two firms, including the New York-based American Insurance Group, or AIG — made his fortune partly by delaying benefits due to his insurance customers. In 2008, when the real-estate bubble burst, the AIG firm was saved from bankruptcy with a $85 billion taxpayer loan.
If he were elected to Washington, MacArthur would “the best supporter of big insurance and big banks that Washington has ever seen,” Lonegan said.
“There is a huge schism in the GOP” between establishment Republicans who will compromise on Obamacare and support progressive goals, such as federal housing for poor people in middle-class neighborhoods, said Lonegan. “I want to stand up for the grass roots,” he said.
MacArthur, however, countered by saying that “voters expect their leaders to get things done.”
He said he would “push against increase in the debt ceiling [that have] no strings attached,” and would try to pass a constitutional amendment curbing spending.
The third district vote takes place June 3.