Guest Column: Scott St. Clair
Purported conservative Steve Lonegan is running for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey. I know Steve Lonegan. I worked for Steve Lonegan. I’ve seen Steve Lonegan in action, including the way he treats people. I wouldn’t vote for Steve Lonegan if he was the last and only candidate on the planet.
In the worst job I have ever had I worked for the former Bogota mayor in the late winter and early spring of 2012 when he ran the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity. My job was to cover and report on the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton for a website he controlled that shall remain nameless. In two months I had enough Lonegan to last a lifetime.
I’m a lifelong conservative with strong libertarian leanings who lived in Washington state before moving to New Jersey two and a half years ago. I’ve worked in journalism, free-market public policy and politics, the executive search business and labor relations since getting out of school in the mid-1970s. In that time, I’ve seen many candidates come and go, and I’m convinced that Lonegan doesn’t have the character, temperament, ideological conviction or intellect to hold any office, let alone ask New Jersey voters to send him to the U.S. Senate.
My opinion of Lonegan does not affect my high regard for AFP and brothers David and Charles Koch, the billionaire activists and philanthropists who support it. They do good and important work in support of freedom and liberty, are principled men and I have no bone to pick with them whatsoever.
But to know Lonegan is to say “NO!” to Lonegan. Take your pick as to the reasons.
His management style is as erratic as an out-of-control pinball just before the machine goes “Tilt!” He bungled my contract, didn’t pay me until after we parted ways and it took a threat of small-claims litigation before he paid my out-of-pocket expenses.
He claimed to be surprised that I hadn’t been paid, which makes him look inept. It’s not like he had a large staff – a half-dozen at most – so how bizarre is it that he didn’t keep tabs on who got paid and when, which begs the question how will he keep track of federal tax-and-spending issues?
The Pinball Wizard he ain’t (despite superficial similarities).
Disagreement was never tolerated in Lonegan land. If you didn’t see it his way, expect a high-decibel, threat-laden tirade. My ears rang for hours afterward on several occasions. It’s one thing to be a good soldier who goes where he’s told to go and shoots at whom he’s told to shoot at. It’s another when you’re an agent in a never-ending crusade against political white whales.
Typical was his insistence on Captain Ahab-like crusades against those in the Legislature whom he considered to be political enemies. Half-baked recycled ethics allegations against a state senator were to be a hot expose of perfidious corruption and scandal. That they had been the substance of a bungled Lonegan-filed ethics complaint a few months earlier weren’t, according to him, relevant.
New Jersey Legislative rules preclude filing ethics complaints 90 days prior to an election, something a supposedly experienced and savvy campaigner should know since the rule sticks out like a sore thumb. But in classic Bungle Brothers buffoonery, Lonegan was made to eat his complaint because it was untimely filed, a real rookie mistake.
Lonegan routinely displayed a lack of understanding of issues. In discussing then pending state Supreme Court nominations, he had difficulty wrapping his head around the idea that many states elect their judges. And he contemptuously dismissed the idea that offshore wind farms could generate tourism.
Lonegan is dead set against the current immigration bill wending its way through the Senate because he opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, except when he needs a couple of illegal immigrants to staple yard signs at his house.
“Familiarity breeds contempt” has Lonegan in mind.
His abysmal track record in bids for higher office in New Jersey attests to his lack of support. Two runs for governor – 2005 and 2009 – and a 1995 run for Congress were abject failures – he didn’t even come close. His best showing was in 2009 where Gov. Chris Christie whipped him handily in the Republican primary 55 – 42 percent.
When the best you can do is a scant 42 percent of your party’s base it’s time to find a new hobby.
His current support is as bad, if not worse. According to PolitickerNJ.com, Lonegan has limited statewide name recognition with 39 percent of registered voters polled knowing who he is.
And that’s the good news. Pollster Scott Rasmussen shows Lonegan getting crushed 50 – 33 percent in a head-to-head matchup with likely Democratic nominee, Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Quinnipiac University has even worse news for Lonegan showing him losing to Booker by a masochistic 54-27 percent.
Gov. Christie’s less-than-tepid acknowledgement of Lonegan’s Senate run isn’t helping. Quoted at NJ.com, Christie said he preferred to focus on his re-election effort rather than the (YAWN) Senate race.
The political woods are strewn with characters like Lonegan. They look good on the front end and garner support early on, but they self-destruct with their own mouths. Lonegan is sufficiently gaffe-prone and vulgar so have the kids leave the room whenever he’s on TV.
Lonegan and crew will dismiss my criticisms as sour grapes from a disgruntled former staffer. They can take their best shot because the truth of what I write stands as an affirmative defense. Still, I expect blow back – anyone who opposes Lonegan is subject to attack.
In typical Lonegan blunt-object fashion, he recently took a gratuitous swipe at his long-shot primary opponent, Dr. Alieta Eck, by challenging the validity of her nominating petitions and accusing her of dishonesty. Also in typical loser-Lonegan fashion, the challenge was unceremoniously tossed leaving the Bogota bully with enough egg on his face to supply Denny’s forever.
Then what’s in it for me? Not a thing. Except, that is, the satisfaction of exposing and helping defeat a humbug, something I’ve done before.
Earlier, I compared Lonegan to the fictional Captain Ahab, a monomaniacal whaler who sacrificed his crew in a personal quest for vengeance. There’s another captain of fiction he resembles, and that’s The Caine Mutiny’s Capt. Queeg, a perennial loser with strong streaks of paranoia and probable cowardice.
In the unlikely event Lonegan becomes New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator, expect to see his Capt. Queeg moments regularly on C-Span: