Late last week The Daily Princetonian spoke to Steve Lonegan, who is running as the Republican candidate for the late Senator Frank Lautenberg’s seat. He will face off against Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the special election scheduled for Oct. 16. Lonegan spoke about his agenda and expressed confidence in his campaign’s momentum.
The Daily Princetonian: How do you feel your campaign has been going, and has your campaign been focusing on any specific constituencies or communities?
Steve Lonegan: The campaign is going extremely well. We’re very focused on the issues of the NSA abuse of power, assault on our individual liberty [and] the failures of the Obamacare system. […] You know, we’re just focusing on those issues. And of course, the president’s failed leadership when it comes to foreign policy in the Middle East is a big issue. So I think the three big issues are Obamacare, the NSA abuse of power — which also includes the IRS abuse of power — and of course our failed Middle Eastern policy. Secondary issues which we all support are just overall economic policy. The people we’re reaching out to are the people we think are going to be voting. You know, of course, there’s a lot of different groups impacted by the failures. Every single one of us should be concerned about the NSA reading our emails and listening to our phone calls, and you know, now we learn they can break encrypted codes and read all of our bank records and healthcare records, probably even more than that. So I think this message resonates across party lines and even cleaves off a lot of Democrats who are worried about these things.
DP: If you were to be elected to the Senate, what do you think you’d do to deal with these failures and these concerns that you and voters have?
SL: Well first of all, I would’ve voted for the Amash amendment, which would’ve forced the NSA to destroy all of our phone records, emails. I would stop the NSA from being able to go after any American without probable cause, without having to go to a real court with public scrutiny [...] rather than this FISA court. [...] Look, we all want a government that’s going to protect us from terrorists, not a government that’s going to spy on our friends, our neighbors and our families. So that’s one area. On the Obamacare side, I think Obamacare, at a bare minimum, needs to be stalled for a couple of years, and at best defunded and repealed.
DP: Any other agenda items that are things that you really want to focus on, if you are elected?
SL: I want to serve on the Finance Committee, Max Baucus’ Finance Committee. One of my big concerns is Dodd Frank, and the Dodd Frank bill impacts the financial sector in many, many ways. [...] We’re now learning how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is sharing records with the NSA on our financial histories, another intrusion into our privacy. I mean, we’re just not safe on any level in this country. Nobody, in anything you do, whether it’s your banking, your healthcare, your finances, your Internet activity, the websites you go to, where you shop — I mean, nothing’s secret anymore. You have no privacy at all. And that is extremely disturbing to me.
DP: Why do you think you’d make the best senator for New Jersey?
SL: Because I am passionate and committed to defending individual liberty. Because I have studied, learned and I understand the fundamental principles of free market economic policies, and that’s all driven by individual liberty. That’s privacy, that’s property rights, that’s the ability of every American to be successful and keep the fruits of their labor, and be, you know, free of the strangleholds of big government. My opponent is a devotee, advocate and huge supporter of big government. He believes that government is the answer to all of our problems. I believe that government is the problem.
DP: When the people of New Jersey are going into the voting booths on Oct. 16, what do you want them to be thinking about?
SL: The number-one issue I want them to remember is that when I vote on any single bill, the number-one measuring stick, the number-one criteria I will have on every vote is, "Am I dispending your individual liberty?"
DP: To shift into some of the criticisms that Mr. Booker has made of you, he’s called you a "right wing radical." How do you respond to that criticism?
SL: You know, typical political rhetoric. You know, I am a little discouraged by the mean-spiritedness of that campaign, but you know, if I’m a right-wing radical, and Cory Booker and I are 180 degrees opposed on every issue, which we are, that makes him a left-wing liberal. Let’s have an election.
DP: You’ve recently been endorsed by Senator Rand Paul. How do you feel about this endorsement?
SL: Well, I’m honored. I mean, Rand Paul has been an absolute leader in fighting against the NSA abuse of power. He’s been the loudest voice in the U.S. Senate about the NSA intrusion into your email, your phone calls. [...] Nobody’s been a louder spokesman, nobody has dragged this out into the public’s view like he has. And he’s also like me in [that he’s] an ardent opponent of entering into another war that we can’t afford. I will not support a war in Syria; we cannot go into Syria. Both Rand Paul and I have been, you know, major opponents of bombing Syria since day one, before there were any public opinion polls. So I’m very honored to have him on my side.
DP: So how involved has Senator Paul been with your campaign so far?
SL: Well that starts tomorrow. Coming into New Jersey, doing three events for me in a row, you know, a brunch, a lunch, a rally. He was on Fox News on Sean Hannity 20 minutes ago talking about my campaign. And he’s been on the radio the last couple of days on different radio shows talking about New Jersey, how important this election is.
DP: While we’re on that subject, why do you feel that this election is so important?
SL: This is a very rare occurrence. This is a special election; it’s a standalone election between two men on Senate issues, on all the biggest issues that are confronting the country today. [...] Cory Booker and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum on these issues. Cory Booker supports the president’s use of the NSA, Cory Booker can’t decide where he stands on the war, it depends on what the public opinion polls [are] and what the Obama people tell him to say and Cory Booker says Obamacare is great. So we have a remarkable opportunity in New Jersey for voters to look at these issues, decide where they stand, and New Jersey is going to be a pivotal vote for the country. A win in New Jersey can set all these issues back big time. Even Republicans who are on the fence on funding of Obamacare, Republicans who are on the fence about the NSA or the war are going to have to think really hard when I win this election.
DP: How do you feel like you’re going to gain ground there and win this election? What are your strategies for doing that?
SL: By having a much stronger message, by having a very powerful, passionate base, by speaking out on these issues clearly, and as people tune in, we keep building up more and more momentum. We have enormous momentum already, but it’s getting more intense every day.