By David Cruz
On the day before primary Election Day, the last thing Republican frontrunner Steve Lonegan wants to be doing is answering questions about a tweet that some construed as racist. Or is it? Lonegan called the tweet “last week’s news” and called out the media for keeping the story alive for the sake of political correctness.
“Cory Booker has been propped up by — I’ll say it again — the Hollywood elites, whether it’s Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Streisand and Steven Spielberg or the people who run Google or Facebook who handed him a business on the way to a Senate race,” said Lonegan. “These are things that every New Jerseyan, every American should be skeptical about.”
A screen grab of the tweet, which was posted on Thursday and quickly taken down, shows a map of Newark and identifies it as Mayor Booker’s foreign policy, including the scribbled in name of several African nations. Lonegan wouldn’t talk about the tweet specifically today but said voters know where he’s coming from.
“I come out of the town of Bogota. This is where my family’s from. It’s a microcosm of New Jersey. It’s a blue-collar community, a very good cross-section of our state,” he said. “I was able to win there as a Republican mayor in a town that’s basically a 2-to-1 Democrat town, three times.”
Booker — also way ahead in the polls on the Democratic side — dismissed the controversy today.
“When folks come together, there’s nothing we can’t do,” he told NJ Today’s Michael Aron. “Leadership should unite, not divide. Leadership should build up, not seek to destroy with their words.”
Meanwhile, Republican Alieta Eck reiterated today her campaign’s position that Lonegan speaks to a small, right wing faction of the party and is no longer a viable candidate.
“You need to have somebody that’s going to represent all the people of New jersey when you’re going to be a U.S. senator, and I think he’s distanced a lot of people,” she said.
Gov. Chris Christie, whose friendship with Booker is well documented, criticized Lonegan and said the former Bogota mayor knew the tweet was wrong.
“I had combat with Steve for months in 2009. Steve never backs away from something no matter how controversial, so when he ordered that to be taken down, I think that was proof positive of the fact that it was inflammatory and completely inappropriate,” said the governor.
It seems unlikely that Twittergate will have much impact on tomorrow’s results, but many feel it could be a harbinger of things to come, once this race gets down to a one-on-one.
Lonegan says he’s fired up for what he calls the biggest race of his life and says that the entire nation will be watching October’s special election, which means more scrutiny of Lonegan’s record, positions and, presumably, tweets.