By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
The POD in the driveway of Steve Lonegan’s Bergen County home is a sign he and his wife Lorraine are moving.
They close Jan. 15 on a home in Lavalette along the shore, which happens to be in the Third Congressional District.
When asked if he is going to run for Congress there, Lonegan said, “Well, we’re considering it very carefully, and I’ve spoken to a number of elected officials across Ocean and Burlington County. The question is, is the Republican Party gonna put forward the best possible candidate to keep that seat, and, Mike, that’s a very competitive district.”
And it didn’t take him long to consider it, two hours after our interview he said he’s made the decision.
The current congressman, Republican Jon Runyan, is leaving the job after four years.
Lonegan appears well-positioned to succeed him, having run three times for statewide office.
“I just won the district in a very tough race against one of the country’s most popular candidates, Cory Booker, who outspent me significantly, and I won it by 54 percent of the vote,” Lonegan said.
Upon losing to Booker this fall, Lonegan said he was through with politics.
“It’s true. I did say that and I do have a real affinity for the private sector. And there is a big part of me that wants to go out and do what I think is the most noble thing a citizen can do, build jobs, value for consumers and a strong economy. But I also have a real talent on the policy issues. I believe I can be more effective for our country in Congress,” Lonegan said.
Nearly a dozen people are said to be eying Runyan’s seat.
Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgarde has the inside track on the Democratic nomination.
Tom MacArthur, a Republican former mayor of Randolph in Morris County, is moving to the shore also and has a million dollars in an exploratory committee.
“I’m sure he’ll have to spend more than a million dollars to get to my level name ID,” Lonegan said.
A staunch conservative, Lonegan opposed the federal Sandy aid bill, and that could hurt him in parts of the district, though he’ll portray it as fiscal responsibility.
Lonegan was born in Bogota, has been its mayor and has lived in the same house for 22 years. But he’s moving to the shore now and has a decent chance of being the next shore congressman.