U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan picked a fight against President Obama's sweeping health care reforms at a rally alongside Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday.
In the final stretch of his campaign to fill New Jersey's vacant senate seat, Lonegan appeared in Hasbrouck Heights to wrap up a day of Garden State appearances with Perry.
A day into shutdown of the federal government, Lonegan called on Republicans in Congress to “hold the line” against the health care law.
Failed budget negotiations in the last week pitted conservative Republican attempts to stall the implementation of Obamacare against a Democratic senate. The
shutdown, the first in 17 years, began the day enrollments in the health
care exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act were slated to begin.
Perry, a former Republican presidential candidate, made two appearances earlier Tuesday in Smithville and Bayville with the would-be senator, concluding with a private, $250 per-plate fundraiser inside the iconic Bendix Diner.
Speaking to a crowd gathered in the parking lot, Perry reiterated themes from his 2012 campaign, championing states’ rights and referring to the sweeping health care reforms passed in 2010 as a “criminal act.”
“If this health care law is forced upon the people of this country, the young men and women of this country are going to be the ones to pay the price,” he told a crowd of supporters. Many of those supporters said they had been to Lonegan rallies or met the candidate personally in the past, and were excited by the appearance of the prominent Republican.
“We don’t need Washington to tell us how to teach our children, we don’t need Washington to tell us how to build our roads, and we don’t need Washington to give us healthcare,” Perry said.
Earlier in the day the Cory Booker campaign released an attack ad against Lonegan, assailing his support of the government shutdown and labeling him “too extreme for New Jersey.”
“Steve Lonegan today underscored why he has no business representing New Jersey in the U.S. Senate,” Booker said in a statement.
“It was bad enough that he reemphasized his allegiance to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and their efforts to hold the American people hostage by shutting down our government. But in an event today with [Perry], Lonegan also trivialized the furloughing without pay of more than 30,000 New Jersey federal workers."
Lonegan was unapologetic about Republican tactics in the U.S. Congress.
“Yesterday the Republicans had the guts to hold the line on the Obama assault on our health care,” he told supporters, noting that local government operations remained unfazed. “On the federal level, we might be a little inconvenienced.”
Perry is the second prominent out-of-state Republican to come to New Jersey in support of Lonegan, who also appeared with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul last month. The Texas governor's appearance with the candidate comes as recent polls have shown a once 30-point Booker lead shrink to 12 or 13 points.
The candidate, who would be the first Republican elected to a New Jersey Senate seat in 41 years, latched on to the healthcare act as a campaign issue, even as the full implementation of the law could come before the election.
"The entire state is going to cast a referendum on Obamacare," he said.
Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, faces off against Newark Mayor Booker Oct. 16 in the special election to fill the senate seat left vacant after the death of longtime Sen. Frank Lautenberg.