Home>Campaigns>Lonegan enters race for N.J. State Senate

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan. (Photo: Micah Rasmussen).

Lonegan enters race for N.J. State Senate

Conservative leader backs Aikens and Sarnoski

By David Wildstein, February 14 2023 10:28 am

Seeking to rebuild New Jersey on conservative principles, Steve Lonegan will seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in the 24th district to succeed retiring Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho.

“You see what’s happening in New Jersey,” Lonegan said.  “We have a crisis.  The base is not motivated by Republican candidates.”

The former Bogota mayor and a leader of the conservative faction of the New Jersey Republican Party for the last two decades, Lonegan will face Parker Space (R-Wantage), an assemblyman who had initially announced his retirement and then jumped into the Senate race following Oroho’s decision not to run.

Lonegan labeled Space as a do-nothing lawmaker.

“The guy has been in Trenton for ten years, and he’s accomplished nothing,” Lonegan said.  “We’ve got to stand for something.”

Lonegan will support Lafayette school board president Josh Aikens and Warren County Commissioner Jason Sarnoski, who are running for the Assembly.

“I think we will be the conservative ticket,” he said.

He said that parental rights and “outrageous sex-ed and core curriculum studies” will be part of his campaign.  He criticized a prominent Space supporter, Senate Minority Whip Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton), for being too close to the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

Space is running with Assembly candidates Dawn Fantasia, a Sussex County commissioner, and Mike Inganamort, the mayor of Chester.  Lonegan said they were the “so-called moderates.”

Lonegan took aim at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, whom he accused of meddling in Republican primaries.

“The gas tax union is coming into Republican primaries,” Lonegan said.  “They want to pick out candidates.”

Space voted against the gas tax in 2016.

Lonegan moved to Sussex County last year to run for the Assembly after Space and Hal Wirths (R-Wantage) said they would not seek re-election.

Lonegan, 66, was elected to his first of three terms as mayor in 1995.  He lost races for the State Senate in 1996, Congress in 1998, gubernatorial primaries in 2005 and 2009 (he carried Sussex by three points against Chris Christie), and U.S. Senate against Cory Booker in 2013 (he won Sussex with 65% of the vote)  and primaries for Congress in 2014 (he moved to Ocean County to run in the 3rd district) and in 2018 when he returned to Bergen to run in the 5th against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff); Lonegan lost that primary by six points but carried the Sussex portion of the district by six points.

Under a new map drawn by the Legislative Apportionment Commission this year, 60% of the district is in Sussex, 35% in Morris, and 5% in Warren.

Lonegan will compete for organization lines in Morris and Warren.  Sussex has an open primary.

A prodigious fundraiser, Lonegan wants Republicans in New Jersey to do better in courting Hispanic voters who are shifting to the GOP in states like Texas and Florida, which have Republican governors.

“That’s not happening in New Jersey,” he said.

The 24th district is the most Republican legislative district in the state.

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