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Fresh Off His Loss to Cory Booker, Steve Lonegan Sets His Sights on NJ-3

by Debbie Sharnak, published
In many ways, Steve Lonegan was the Republicans’ sacrificial lamb in the New Jersey special Senate election in 2013. Cory Booker entered the race as a high profile candidate who, from the very beginning, was expected to win the seat with a wide margin. Many of the bigger Republican names stayed away while Lonegan, a former mayor of the small town of Bogota, NJ, bravely decided to face the popular Newark mayor.

When Booker did get elected with a 55-44 margin, it was an easy win, but also one that in the final days of the race looked closer than expected. Lonegan, however, immediately said that he was “through with politics.”

That did not last long.

In January, Lonegan put his house in Bergen County up for sale and closed on a house in Lavalette, which is in the Third Congressional District. This seat is being vacated by the two-term congressman, Republican Jon Runyan.

Almost immediately after putting a "for sale" sign up in front of his house, Lonegan threw his name into the ring for the seat.

In the race against Booker, Lonegan won the third congressional district with 54 percent of the vote. He believes that after being outspent by such a wide margin in the Senate race, he has a good chance to win the congressional race in 2014.

He will face a tough primary though against candidates like Republican Tom MacArthur, a former mayor of Randolph, who already has a million dollars in explanatory committee funds.

Lonegan has his own credentials. He boasts statewide name recognition because he has run three statewide campaigns: two for governor and  and one for U.S. Senate. This will also be his second run for Congress.

Lonegan remains a darling of the right. He is also a staunch conservative, opposing measures as extreme as Sandy aid. This in and of itself might be a difficult sell during the race since the third district includes a great deal of New Jersey shoreline that was damaged in the storm.

On the Democratic side, Aimee Belgard appears to be the current frontrunner. Right now, she holds the Burlington County Freeholder seat, but declared her candidacy for the third congressional seat the day after Runyan decided not to run for re-election.

She faces a primary challenge from Howard Kleinhendler, a corporate lawyer who previously ran for Congress in the fourth district (but lost) and Jack Fanous, co-founder and executive director of a veterans group, G.I. Go Fund.

Belgard, however, already has support from other New Jersey Democratic politicians, including Assemblyman Troy Singleton and the Burlington County Democratic Committee.

Various political pundits have declared the NJ-3 race one of the most ‘dangerous’ of the season. By dangerous of course, they mean that it is most vulnerable to either party and thus, the seat will be hotly contested over the next few months. No third party candidates have yet to declare their candidacy, but the race remains one for voters to keep an eye on.

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