Lonegan stepped down as New Jersey director of the anti-tax, pro-business Americans for Prosperity to run. Lonegan, who is legally blind, got national attention as mayor of the town of Bogota when he tried to get English made its official language.
After two runs in Republican gubernatorial primaries and as the leader of successful campaigns against ballot measures to raise a state sales tax and fund stem-cell research, Lonegan was a favorite of New Jersey’s relatively small right wing.
Gathered with supporters Wednesday evening in Bridgewater, he told supporters, “Unfortunately for whatever reason the message we delivered together … did not win the day.”
The two candidates portrayed each other as too extreme for the job.
Throughout the campaign, Lonegan was aggressive, criticizing Booker during a string of homicides in Newark, holding a red carpet event in rally to mock the time Booker spent fundraising in California and declaring that “New Jersey needs a leader, not a tweeter.”
Lonegan also criticized Booker when a Portland, Ore., stripper revealed a series of not-so-salacious Twitter messages she’d exchanged with Booker, who’s single. The topic resurfaced last week when Lonegan fired a key adviser after a profane interview in which the adviser suggested Booker’s words were “like what a gay guy would say to a stripper.”
Lonegan had called it “strange” that Booker won’t say whether he’s gay. Booker, for his part, has said his sexuality should not matter to voters and has been elusive on the subject.
At a debate this month, Lonegan responded to Booker’s comments about the need for environmental regulations to clean a river through Newark. “You may not be able to swim in that river,” he said. “But it’s probably, I think, because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city.”
Booker seemed stunned at the remark, and his campaign has criticized Lonegan for it.