Weak Tea

New Jersey Rejects Tea Party Candidate, Again

Steve Lonegan fell short in his bid to win the GOP nomination in a swing congressional district in South Jersey on Tuesday.

Mel Evans/AP

There’s one more Tea Partier the GOP won’t have to worry about costing it a swing district in November.

In southern New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, Steve Lonegan, the controversial former mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, lost the Republican nomination to businessman Tom MacArthur by a margin of roughly 60 percent-40 percent.

MacArthur and Lonegan had been locked in an intense battle for the seat. The former North Jersey mayors moved south down the New Jersey Turnpike to run in the swing district after Rep. Jon Runyan, a Republican and former offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, declared he wouldn’t run for reelection after two terms in office.

Last year, Lonegan—who has twice mounted bids for the GOP nomination for governor—ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against the Democratic mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, in New Jersey’s special election to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Frank Lautenberg. During that campaign, Lonegan, who is blind, referred to Booker’s Newark as a “big black hole” and was forced to fire an aide after he made explicit comments to a reporter about a stripper Booker communicated with on Twitter.

Lonegan is staunchly anti-immigration, and although he had difficulty gaining the support of party leaders in CD3, he was endorsed by Sarah Palin, who called him “the type of conservative leader we need.” That “we” apparently did not include the voters he needed.

MacArthur, bald and goateed, had a successful business career in the insurance industry and spent $2 million of his own money on his election. Helpfully, he was endorsed by Runyan and was considered the candidate of the Republican establishment in a district that has seesawed between Democrats and Republicans in recent years.

Come November, MacArthur will challenge Democrat Aimee Belgard, a Burlington County Freeholder in the general election.