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DiGaetano calls on Lonegan to drop out

Calls anti-gay slur appalling, says no room in GOP for bigots

By David Wildstein, April 13 2018 4:20 pm

Allegations that Steve Lonegan called a councilman a “fundamentalist faggot piece of shit” in 2006 has Paul DiGaetano fuming.

DiGaetano, the Bergen County GOP Chairman, says there is no room for bigots in the Republican Party and wants Lonegan to drop out of the race for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th district.

“In my nearly four decades of politics in Passaic, Essex and Bergen Counties, I have never heard anyone, much less a candidate for a competitive Congressional seat use terms as derogatory as we have here.  The Republican Party in New Jersey is not filled with hate and bigotry like Steve Lonegan is,” said DiGaetano. “I am a bottom line guy, so let me bottom line this, Lonegan is not fit to serve in Congress.  Using anti-gay and anti-Christian slurs is appalling and offensive to the faith and lifestyles of the people of the 5th district.”

Lonegan is running off the line against DiGaetano’s candidate, former Cresskill councilman John McCann.

DiGaetano also says that county candidates running with Lonegan — Paul Duggan, Kevin Parany and Ed Mazlish – should either denounce Lonegan’s comments and quit the race too.

The candidates “must show that they do not stand with this man’s hate or stay silent, which is an implicit endorsement of this filth,” DiGaetano said.

DiGaetano, who is not seeking re-election to a second term as county chairman, hinted that Lonegan would not be able to unite the Bergen GOP in a general election against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) if he is the nominee.

“If Steve Lonegan, who has lost six elections for higher office won’t man up, accept responsibility and drop out of the race, it is incumbent on all of those who endorse him to do the same or I am confident that they will be smeared with Lonegan’s hate for the rest of their political careers,” said DiGaetano.  “Donors, elected officials and candidates should understand that having your name next to Steve’s quote is wrong and toxic and the Democrats will make sure everyone knows it.”

The Lonegan campaign rejected DiGaetano’s comments.

“Paul DiGaetano lost it earlier today,” said Lonegan campaign manager Mike Proto.  “In keeping with the silliness of DiGaetano’s reaction to losing Column 1, we suggest that before making a demand that Steve Lonegan leave a race because you believe he once said some naughty words – several years before DiGaetano endorsed Lonegan in his 2009 gubernatorial bid, no less – Chairman Paul DiGaetano should feel comfortable reassuring us that he himself has never used such naughty words.  To this end, we suggest he take a lie-detector test, narrow in scope, because he has told his share.  Let’s see if the gentleman in white is as virginal as he purports to be.”

DiGaetano’s indignation toward Lonegan represents an emerging view of the longtime GOP legislator on social issues.

As Assembly Majority leader in the 1990’s, DiGaetano supported legislation to ban same sex marriage and domestic partnerships. As a gubernatorial candidate in 2005, he advocated for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comment from the Lonegan campaign.

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Lonegan deposition Transcript
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