Lonegan on Chiesa appointment; and recent Tea Party efforts: 'I wasn't running'
By Max Pizarro | June 6th, 2013 - 2:10pm
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Formally kicking off his U.S. Senate campaign at his home in Bogota, Steve Lonegan said Gov. Chris Christie’s choice to fill the vacant seat of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) did not surprise him, and called the choice “perfectly fine.”

“I think the governor has handled this well,” said the former mayor of Bogota and 2009 candidate for governor.

Energized by his early petition gathering efforts, Lonegan said he believes the governor’s decision to call for an open primary this year will galvanize the conservative base.

PolitickerNJ.com asked Lonegan why the Tea Party wing of the party appeared weak on Tuesday night. In Burlington and on the Bayshore, would-be flare-ups of renegade Republican strength turned into fragmented causes and Election Night losses.

“I wasn’t running,” Lonegan cracked.  “Look, these types of primaries are difficult, and individuals are often unprepared for typical elections where the party line is so important.

“An open primary is a different animal,” the U.S. Senate candidate added.

He said he relishes the chance to get through the primary to attack Democrats on Dodd Frank, cap and trade, Obamacare and the Benghazi debacle.

“Let them put up whoever they like,” said the head of Americans for Prosperity’s New Jersey chapter (AFP Spokesman Mike Proto said Lonegan left the position in April).

During his press conference this afternoon, Christie slapped down a question about the unfairness of the shortened runway for candidates to collect signatures.

This coming Monday is the deadline.

“I could not agree more,” Lonegan said. “It’s a U.S. Senate seat, if you don’t have enough people you can get to sign petitions you shouldn’t be running. I give this guy credit. After we file on Monday I will reach out to him.”

Lonegan said longtime ally Michael Byrne is serving as his campaign manager.

“I expect to file with more than 1,000 signatures,” the candidate said. “I have raised $25k in two days alone. We are just now pulling this campaign together and I will raise millions because we expect a slugfest.” 

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