STATE—Conservative GOP gubernatorial aspirant Steve Lonegan finally got to share a stage with the elusive liberal Republican Chris Christie in the first primary debate and polls suggest the impact has been dramatic.
Once deemed the front-runner, Christie is getting a lot of negative publicity because he made a deal with the leader of a sex slavery ring in pursuit of a crooked politician and doled out multi-million dollar no-bid contracts to campaign donors.
Another factor is that as voters learn about Lonegan, they’ve decided they like him. Republican primary voters wouldn’t agree with Christie on most issues, including gay rights, abortion and the flat tax, but Lonegan gives firey speeches and rallies the right-wing with messages that appeal to conservative voters. With two members reaching the mandatory retirement age and two others completing their first term, the next governor will shape the state’s top court.
Lonegan said the government should enforce justice to stop exclusionary zoning and create opportunity for people who can afford to buy a house, but not go overboard with an affordable housing guarantee.
Lonegan said the state supreme court needs an overhaul and he vowed to appoint four new justices—a majority—if he is elected as governor. By contrast, Christie condemned the top court but fell short of assessing the performance of his former acolyte, Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who was appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine.
“Creating a real powerful economy based on free market principles means eliminating progressive taxation, cutting the size of government and ending small business taxes,” said Lonegan.
Those steadfast ideas have come under attack by Christie, who has ridiculed Lonegan’s flat tax proposal but instead of backing down, the conservative quotes Ronald Reagan and declares that
“New Jersey has the most progressive and destructive income taxes in the nation.”
While Christie makes vague promises about cutting taxes, he neglects the national economic woes and offers no specifics, and claims lower taxes will solve all the state’s fiscal problems.
On making insurance more affordable, Lonegan agrees with much of Christie’s plan but he would also limit lawsuit liability by imposing ‘tort reforms’ or caps on how much money juries can award in malpractice cases.