Republican Steve Lonegan is back -- but it may not be music to many GOP ears as he seeks a competitive House seat in New Jersey.
The GOP nominee lost last year's special Senate election to Democrat Cory Booker, but now he says he's in for the primary to replace retiring Rep. Jon Runyan’s (R-N.J.).
“Yup,” he told the Newark Star-Ledger when asked if he was running for the South Jersey seat. “I have the hottest donor list in the country. My name ID there is over 90 percent."
Runyan's surprise retirement announcement last fall put in play a competitive House seat. The two-term former Philadelphia Eagles lineman won the seat in the 2010 GOP wave and won re-election comfortably in 2012, but President Obama narrowly carried the district twice.
But if Lonegan is the nominee, some of his controversial past statements and his conservative Senate campaign could worry many Republicans about their chances to hold the seat.
Lonegan ran a notably conservative Senate campaign for such a deep-blue state and received little help from national Republicans, who saw his candidacy as dead on arrival. But in the final weeks of the race, polls began to tighten. Lonegan only lost to the well-known Booker by only 11 points, a slimmer margin than expected in a state that Obama won in 2012 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Lonegan, however, faced criticism for a number of controversial comments he and one of his staffers made questioning Booker's masculinity. An he admitted his past campaign could cost him the backing of prominent Republicans this next bid as well.
“I have got terrific support on the ground from mayors, municipal chairmen, elected officials,” Lonegan told the Star-Ledger. “Will I have the party bosses' support? I don’t know about that.”
Several other Republicans have indicated an interest in the race following Runyan’s surprise retirement announcement last fall, but only one Democrat, Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, has entered the race.
Lonegan is also purchasing a house in the district --more than 70 miles away from the former Bogota mayor's home -- in the next couple of weeks, NJTV reported.