We were thinking about that stupid statement by that fellow we thought we liked, Carlos Rendo, and who we were prepared to forgive for his anti-religious musings and his work as an immigration attorney. The statement was made yesterday, by Rendo, in an attack on Republican Steve Lonegan, on behalf of John McCann.
Rendo told InsiderNJ that, of the two, McCann was the "only candidate with an actual record of putting taxpayers first."
It's funny Rendo put it that way, because "Putting Taxpayers First" is the title of the 2007 book written by Steve Lonegan. In it, Lonegan provides the blueprint for the conservative movement on how to address New Jersey's worst-in-America business climate and poor record of job creation, the state's highest-in-the-nation property taxes, subsidized COAH housing, the public employees union-dominated education system, and the activist judiciary -- among other things.
We can't expect the younger generation to remember what it was like after party liberals like Christie Whitman and Paulie DiGaetano lost Republicans our majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Under Democrats McGreevey and Corzine, the Democrats grew government with tax hikes and new regulations -- and always with Republican support. Conservatives watched dismayed as the GOP provided the votes to end the death penalty for serial killers, child rapists/ murderers, cop-killers, and terrorists.
While this was happening, John McCann was threatening to run for Congress, telling GOP leaders that Senator Gerry Cardinale and Assemblyman Scott Garrett were "too conservative" for the 5th District. McCann's candidacies are cyclical. Like the cicada, he surfaces from the mud about once a decade. McCann called himself an "Arlen Specter Republican," going left on the issues, mimicking the Democrats' platform on such issues as abortion and gun-control.
Meanwhile, Steve Lonegan was organizing the modern conservative movement in New Jersey. He led the fight against the Newark arena taxpayer rip-off, fought state government borrowing without voter approval all the way to the Supreme Court, winning key concessions and transparency. The Court's decisions in Lonegan I and Lonegan II paved the way for the (then Senator Leonard) Lance Amendment. Lonegan organized conservatives to sue to stop eminent domain and taxpayer-funded elections.
Lonegan pulled off the unheard of accomplishment of defeating two statewide ballot questions -- stopping government-funded embryonic stem cell research and a sales tax increase. Lonegan broke the back of the Corzine administration's plans to hike tolls on state roads and he successfully organized conservatives to stop the RGGI fuel tax. Again, and again, and again, Steve Lonegan was the essential man -- leading the conservative movement forward, providing hope to the GOP in its darkest days.
Steve Lonegan became the glue that held the conservative movement together in New Jersey. He took over the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and made it the premier chapter in the nation. His fundraising prowess saw to it that conservative initiatives had resources. When the GOP opposed same-sex marriage in 2009-10, it was Lonegan who made the calls to ensure they had the funding.
Because of Steve Lonegan, Chris Christie tacked right in his 2009 campaign for Governor, and New Jersey elected -- and re-elected -- a Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment Governor, something the Whitman/DiGaetano wing of the GOP had long held was an impossibility. Lonegan held seminars, put together conventions, organized demonstrations and rallies -- a flurry of grassroots activity unheard of in the NJGOP. He nurtured the careers and helped fund the campaigns of younger conservatives like Mike Doherty, Michael Patrick Carroll, and Alison Littell McHose.
Under Steve Lonegan, AFP became the thing that SRM and ARV have most desperately needed in the last few cycles -- a superPAC able to independently hit the Democrats and hold them to account. Lonegan's relationships with national conservatives ensured that the efforts of groups like the General Majority PAC would not go unchallenged.
All this ended abruptly when Steve Lonegan departed New Jersey to work on the national scene. AFP became a shell of its former self. Activism died overnight.
And the NJGOP, the SRM, the ARV? Unprecedented losses over and over again. You have to go back to the period after the Watergate Scandal (do any YR's or CR's even know what that is?) to find a time when New Jersey Republicans held this few seats in the Legislature. Next up... the culling of the GOP's congressional delegation in New Jersey.
The Republican Party in New Jersey has been studiously ignoring its conservative base for years. Meanwhile, its once dominant "country club" crowd has gone Democrat and is now fielding candidates from its ranks against GOP incumbents like Jon Bramnick. In 2001 there were more so-called "wingers" than "country-clubbers" -- 17 years later, the country-club set is kidding itself if it still believes it counts for more than 20 percent of the party's registered voters. Now it is a discussion between populist "Trump" Republicans and their ideological comrades of the more traditional "Reagan" right. It's not your party anymore, Ms. Whitman.
Steve Lonegan's return to New Jersey politics could be a great shot-in-the-arm for the NJGOP, for SRM, and for ARV. Lonegan has the relationships to bring national conservatives into New Jersey to take on groups like the General Majority PAC. As we speak, a superPAC composed of medical professionals is forming -- the first of many.
Unfortunately, there is this Rendo endorsement. Normally, the endorsement of some moe from Hudson County who got elected mayor in Bergen County wouldn't count for much. But this guy was the establishment's choice for Lt. Governor, so many conservatives are conflating his move with the establishment's wishes. This misunderstanding could lead to conflict, which could become a very debilitating civil war at a time when resources are thin and the congressional delegation is at stake.
Right now, New Jersey Congressional Republicans are not speaking with a single voice on any issue and they are certainly not following the President in any collective fashion. There are a lot of GOP messages out there. Taking back CD05 is going to be a formidable challenge, with holding CD02 perhaps more difficult. Congressman Frelinghuysen has been taking a terrific beating for months and faces a very attractive opponent. If Josh Gottheimer doesn't wake up with a sore ass every morning, if Jeff Van Drew isn't sledge-hammered regularly, if Rodney doesn't learn how to punch back... the Democrats with all their money and all their superPACs are going to move on new opportunities. It is time to stop them.
Does anyone really believe that a candidate like John McCann can even piss straight? For years he's lived in the moist dirt of county patronage politics, sucking up what the boys -- Republicans and Democrats -- feed him. McCann is where he is because he threatened to run in a primary against conservative Republican incumbent Gerry Cardinale. That's right, this asswipe thought it was a good idea to primary Senator Cardinale and make SRM spend money it didn't have, so there would be less to spend fighting the Democrats in November.
Oh, and at the time, McCann was the patronage employee of Democrat Sheriff Michael Saudino, who would have had to sign-off on his antics. No conflict there, right?
At the time, Bergen County GOP boss Paulie DiGaetano was messing in a divisive primary of his own (one he couldn't raise money for) and dissuaded McCann by promising him the Congressional nomination. Paulie got crushed in the primary and here we are now. McCann thinks the nomination is his by gift from a party boss who couldn't raise the money required to fund his own legislative race! Does anybody think Josh Gottheimer is going to take this clown seriously? Josh will be able to campaign fulltime in CD11.
Steve Lonegan's presence on the ballot has given new life to the state's conservative movement. It has energized the base, made them happy, and caused them to think well of the GOP. Carlos Rendo's stupid move has jeopardized that and the conspiracy theories are already circulating.
John McCann can't raise the money, can't stir the troops, won't rally the base, and will only provide Josh Gottheimer with the leisure to make mischief in another district. But maybe that's all beside the point. Perhaps his loyalties are still with Democrat Saudino? As has been suggested, perhaps he is one of them?