Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan remains the underdog in New Jersey’s October 16th special election to replace former Senator Frank Lautenberg, but missteps by Democratic frontrunner Cory Booker have allowed his Republican opponent to make modest inroads in recent weeks. And the long-awaited implementation of the Affordable Care Act has brought the issue of healthcare reform to the fore.
Though New Jersey acceded to the law’s Medicaid expansion, Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed two bills passed by the state’s Democratic controlled legislature authorizing a state-run health exchange. This prompted Washington to step in and administer what ultimately proved a shoddy online launch on October 1st. Moreover, Aetna pulled the plug on its plan to join the federally run Garden State exchange in September, leaving three participating health insurers: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, AmeriHealth New Jersey, and a new co-op called Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.
“I am unalterably opposed to ObamaCare. I’ve said over and over I will vote to defund ObamaCare. I think it is an all out assault on our economic prosperity and our liberty and our freedoms. And we’re seeing a lot of that out of this administration.” Lonegan said, insisting he had cut Booker’s lead to “well under” ten points.
Levin pointed out resistance to the Affordable Care Act was coming from both union and non-union quarters, to which Lonegan responded, “We have lots of union people. We have Time Warner retirees; we have UPS, IBM retirees that are all getting letters. I’m getting reports from people all over the state that they’re getting letters that they have to find new insurance. They have to be thrown into some ridiculous government run health insurance pool. I mean this is an unbelievable assault on our economic liberty at a time when the nation is trying to recover.”
Lonegan also attempted to turn support from celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Ben Affleck against his Democratic rival, adding, “My opponent in this race is not Cory Booker the Mayor of Newark. He’s just a Hollywood stand-in for Barack Obama because that’s who’s on the other side of the ballot in this election…”
Lonegan with Bill Bennett
Coming on the heels of his first senatorial debate with Booker, Lonegan redoubled his efforts to frame the Garden State’s senate race as a referendum on ObamaCare at the beginning of a Monday morning radio appearance with Bill Bennett broadcast locally on Philadelphia’s 990 AM WNTP.
Lonegan touted cutting the budget of Bogota as mayor, pointed to elements of his own life story such as being raised by a single mother, and highlighted his time as a small business owner before renewing his attack on Booker as an out of touch candidate tied to Hollywood.
“He opposes the twenty week abortion ban. In his NARAL questionnaire he supports tax payer abortions up until the day of delivery. Now he calls me an extremist for being pro-life. That’s extreme. I’ve been endorsed by the NRA. I’m a proud supporter of the Second Amendment.” Lonegan stated – citing gun control proponent Michael Bloomberg’s recent decision to pump $1 million in ad buys on behalf of Cory Booker’s candidacy.
Lonegan went on to blast Booker for his record in Newark, criticizing his rival on unemployment, education, and crime.
“As mayor of Newark Newark’s unemployment has gone under Cory Booker from eight to fourteen percent. His high school dropout rate – and this is one of the most expensive school systems in the nation of America – his high school dropout rate ranges from fifty to seventy percent…” Lonegan charged.
However state officials, rather than the local government under Cory Booker, have maintained control of the city’s school district since 1995 – though it is worth noting Trenton’s reticence to relinquish its stewardship over Newark is itself rooted in the district’s ongoing anemic graduation rates and poor test scores.
Finally, Lonegan circled back to ObamaCare – particularly its cuts to Medicare – in addition to emphasizing the overarching theme of personal liberty as it pertained to an expanding federal government, NSA surveillance, wealth redistribution, and overregulation.
Despite the recent lackluster rollout of the Affordable Care Act, whether the conservative stalwart can prevail against long odds in deep blue New Jersey remains to be seen.
But come what may on October 16th, Steve Lonegan is no mindless myrmidon. And he sounds every inch a candidate determined to leave nothing on the field.
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