Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 20, 2014

Republicans Likely to Avert Disaster in New Jersey

Republicans Likely to Avert Disaster in New Jersey

Runyan is retiring from Congress, leaving behind a competitive race for his seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Jersey Republicans are on track to get their preferred nominee through the primary in the state’s most competitive House race, thanks to the local political machine and a deep-pocketed candidate.

On Tuesday, Randolph Township Mayor Tom MacArthur, is expected to defeat a spirited challenge from a tea-party-aligned frequent candidate, Steve Lonegan. The stakes for this South Jersey open seat are high: The race is rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, and the district includes the pricey Philadelphia media market.

“Tom MacArthur is going to win this race because he is a strong conservative, a successful businessman and has the support of both county Republican organizations and more than 160 locally elected Republicans across the district,” wrote Burlington County GOP Chairman William Layton in a Thursday email.

If things do not go exactly as Republicans plan on Tuesday’s primary with MacAruther, GOP operatives fear they will blow the seat entirely. Democrats hope Lonegan will pull an upset, making the path to victory much easier for their de facto nominee, Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard.

Lonegan trailed his GOP primary opponent by double digits in recent public pollsTo be sure, he brings organizational and financial strengths to the primary fight that are atypical for a candidate running against the state and national establishment.

Lonegan has raised $800,000 (including a $300,000 candidate loan), according to his pre-primary fundraising report. And he boasts name solid recognition in the district, thanks to his unsuccessful special election bid last fall against now-Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat.

But this is New Jersey, possibly one of the most hostile environments in the country for anti-establishment campaigns.

That’s mostly due to the nature of the state’s primary ballot. County political parties determine preferential ballot positioning for a candidate through their county party endorsements. The 3rd District’s two county parties, Burlington and Ocean, have waged war in the past over which candidate would be the party standard-bearer in the primary

But this cycle, national operatives feared the Lonegan threat early in the spring. New Jersey Republicans intervened, and the two local county GOPs came together to back MacArthur early in the primary. Republicans were relieved.

Meanwhile, Lonegan had threatened to recruit his own slate of downballot candidates to appear on the ballot with him — a strategy that would likely mitigate some of the MacArthur ballot advantage.

“I’ll have my own line,” Lonegan said in a March interview.

But it never happened. According to interviews with both counties’ clerk offices, Lonegan will only appear with a small handful of allied candidates.

Lonegan’s camp rejected recent polling and argued the premise MacArthur is more electable in November is flawed. Instead, Lonegan’s camp noted his Senate bid performed better than Booker in this district.

“I don’t understand it,” a Lonegan source said. “I don’t know what it’s based upon. Steve Lonegan has proven that he can win against a very liberal Democrat.”

He also has endorsements from national Republican figures, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and entrepreneur Steve Forbes.

But there’s another reason Republicans are confident about Tuesday: MacArthur’s financial strength. The former risk management company CEO largely self-funded his campaign with nearly $2 million in loans, per his latest fundraising report with the Federal Election Commission.

Amid this campaign, Lonegan ran a searing ad attacking MacArthur’s business record, with two Californians essentially calling MacArthur a liar. But MacArthur has a greater capacity to counter those attacks on television with positive advertising.

Belgard spent the first stretch of this race with a cleared nomination field. She used that time to raise money and posted a $330,000 war chest. It’s a strong sum, but it lags behind other top Democratic challengers in the country.

Republicans suggest MacArthur, with his financial strengths, could pull this seat out of contention for Democrats. But the opposition showed no sign of backing off  Thursday, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it had reserved $1.3 million in television airtime for the district.

President Barack Obama carried the district in both of his presidential campaigns. But this seat has frustrated House Democrats.

The late Rep. John Adler, a Democrat, won the seat in 2008, but the party came up short in 2010 and 2012. New Jersey’s 3rd District fell off the map by October, when parties triage which races merit funding, because of the high advertising costs in Philadelphia and New York City.

Democrats could have waited to see who Republicans nominated before making those reservations. Instead, they went ahead and publicized these strategic decisions ahead of Election Day. The DCCC could cancel or move the reservation to other candidates in the region.

But for now, no matter who the nominee is, the party is making a big bet on South Jersey.

  • Kevin

    Interesting story, but a couple of things to point out: Yes, John Adler lost in 2010, but he died suddenly shortly thereafter. It was his widow, Shelly, who challenged Runyan again in 2012, coming up short. Also, the district is pricey, but it can be reached almost entirely by buying Philadelphia media, not New York (lessening the expense). Toms River, on the shore, is technically in the New York market, but it is also overlapped with many Philadelphia television affiliates as well.

  • mcentanni

    You guys left out that the two county parties got behind MacArthur after he made donations to the county parties in six figure amounts. He bought them, lock, stock, and barrel. Typical New Jersey Republican move. Go with the liberal guy who has a lot of money so that you don’t have to do any work. I guess that in NJ they are so accustomed to losing they don’t really care.

    • Raphael Semmes

      If this corrupt crap can win a GOP primary, maybe we are actually better off if the Democrat wins in November. ANYBODY BUT MACARTHUR!

      • Jazzboy1

        Yeah. ANYBODY BUT MACARTHUR! Vote for the Democrat as the best way to stop the billionaire party bosses take over completely in 2014 ’cause then Lonegan (or another true conservative) can run and win in 2016! The seat will just bounce back to GOP ’cause it happened before..

  • YONATAN C

    SENATOR JOHN BOEHNER IS A SAD EXCUSE FOR A POLITICIAN AND A HUMAN BEING IF EVER THERE WAS. HE HAS SINGLE HANDEDLY DESTROYED THE LIVES OF MILLIONS OF UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES WITHOUT UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSON BENEFITS SINCE LATE LAST DECEMBER. HE HAS USED HIS POWER IN OFFICE TO DELAY AND POSTPONE THE EXTENSION VOTE IN THE SENATE UNTIL IT BECAME TOO LATE TO PASS IT IN TIME. THIS WAS AN INTENTIONAL MOVE ON HIS PART AND OF THOSE REPUBLICANS THAT FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE. SINCE LAST DECEMBER, MILLIONS HAVE FACED EVICTIONS, HOME FORECLOSURES, BANKRUPTCY, AND HOMELESSNESS, WITH EVERY PASSING MONTH THAT WENT BY WITHOUT THE BILL. EVEN THOUGH A FOREIGN AID BILL WAS PASSED DURING THIS TIME, FOR THE UKRAINE, WORTH BILLIONS OF TAX PAYER’S DOLLARS, NO HELP WAS GIVEN TO THESE UNFORTUNATE AMERICANS WITHOUT BENEFITS. THE REPUBLICANS HAVE CLEARLY SHOWN FOR WHOM THEY WORK FOR, AND FOR WHOM THEY SERVE… AND IT’S NOT YOU OR ME. THE REPUBLICANS WORK FOR SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS AND CORPORATE AMERICA ONLY. MANY FAMILIES ARE STILL STRUGGLING AND FAILING FINANCIALLY DUE TO THE EXTENSION BILL NOT BEING PASSED. THIS IS TRULY A CRIME AGAINST THE POOR AND UNEMPLOYED IN OUR COUNTRY, AND I HOPE THAT EVERYONE AFFECTED WILL VOTE THEM ALL OUT OF OFFICE IN THE COMING ELECTIONS..

  • Stevee07

    Republicans, don’t fall for the media misinformation campaign that MacArthur is the inevitable winner of Tuesday’s primary. While he has standing in the party, he is fundamentally poison for any effort to reestablish a Constitutional Republic. Please listen to and then seriously consider voting for Lonegan. You decide who wins on Tuesday.

  • Brandon

    I question the legitimacy of our elections. Lonegan is known statewide, Macarthur is a total no-name. I guarantee more people technically will vote for Lonegan, yet the establishment riggs the whole process and Macarthur will win. Lonegan butchered Macarthur in the debate, has the name recognition, and his supporters are vocal. Lonegan should win, but the establishment will rig it like they always do. I really cannot STAND the GOP (or Democratic) establishments. We live in a two party system (well, a ONE party system) and we need to rebel. Vote principle, not the lesser of the evils. ;)

    • Jazzboy1

      Brandon: Look out!!
      There’s a commie behind your closet door…

      • Brandon

        Irrelevant.

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  • Raphael Semmes

    What establishment drivel this article is.

    Lonegan carried this district by a decent margin when he ran for US Senate last year. He has proven he can win there against a top drawer Democrat. MacArthur has not. MacArthur is a total crapshoot. The disaster would be to go with the unproven candidate, MacArthur.

    The establishment just wants their yes-men in control. It has nothing to do with beating Democrats. And in this district, the establishment’s yes-man has more in common on issues with Democrats than he does with Republicans, plus is the one who is unproven as a general election candidate in this district.

  • Niz Kamal

    Republican will in NOVEMBER. It is a great republican year!!! GOP all the way

  • YONATAN C

    THE PEOPLE WILL NOT FORGET HOW THE SENATE FAILED TO PASS THE UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION BILL FOR THE MILLIONS OF UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES IN THIS COUNTRY. THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS HAVE FAILED THE MORE THAN 2.6 MILLION UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES WITHOUT BENEFITS SINCE LAST DECEMBER. THESE MILLIONS OF FAMILIES HAVE FACED EVICTIONS, HOME FORECLOSURES, PERSONAL BANKRUPTCY, AND HOMELESSNESS, WHILE THE TWO POLITICAL PARTIES HELD THE EXTENSION BILL HOSTAGE IN THE SENATE. THEY CHOSE TO MAKE THE PEOPLE SUFFER RATHER THAN TO COOPERATE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE PEOPLE. THESE POLITICIANS NEED TO BE VOTED OUT OF OFFICE IN THE NEXT ELECTION. THIS SHOULF NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. THESE POLITICIANS ARE A DISGRACE,

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