News Politics

Oft-Rejected GOP Candidate Who Would Ban Abortion Launches Congressional Bid in New Jersey

Ally Boguhn

Steve Lonegan, who opposes abortion rights in any circumstance, is also against Obamacare, saying he would be "callous and uncaring" on providing health care for constituents.

New Jersey Republican Steve Lonegan announced Thursday that he’s running to represent New Jersey’s Fifth District in the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat flipped by Democrats in the 2016 elections.

Lonegan, the former New Jersey state director of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, has had his platform cast into the spotlight during multiple failed runs for office, including the 2009 primary for the Republican nomination for governor against Chris Christie, the special election for U.S. Senate against then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker in 2013, and a 2014 race to represent the state’s Third Congressional District.

In an interview with the anti-choice during his race against Booker, Lonegan told the outlet he was “about as pro-life as they come.” He said he believes life begins at conception, language in line with radical personhood” legislation that seeks to outlaw abortion and some forms of contraception. He voiced his support for overturning Roe v. Wade, defunding Planned Parenthood, and passing both the the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Life at Conception Act.

When asked to explain his opposition to exceptions for abortion bans, he said, “Rape is a terrible thing. But you don’t punish an innocent baby for that.”

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Lonegan gave an interview that campaign cycle to Bryan Fischer, a Christian radio host for the American Family Association. The organization is considered an “anti-gay hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Fischer, according to the SPLC, has used his show to promote “blaming gay men for the Holocaust, calling for the criminalization of homosexuality, and calling for the banning of Muslim immigration to the United States.”

“I am a 100 percent pro-lifer, I have been all my life,” Lonegan told Fischer. “I went to my first March for Life in 1976,” he said, explaining that he would decline to support candidates who were not opposed to abortion rights because they could not be trusted. He also voiced his opposition to marriage equality and nondiscrimination measures.

As the race between Lonegan and Booker progressed, the two sparred at a debate over their views on abortion, and Lonegan launched ads criticizing Booker’s pro-choice position.

It was not the first time that Lonegan, who supported a blanket ban on abortion with no exceptions, has used this issue to attack a rival candidate. During his 2009 run against Christie, he ran advertisements touting his opposition to abortion rights. He repeatedly drew attention to Christie’s flip-flops on the issue, accusing Christie of misleading the public about the timing of his anti-choice conversion.

Lonegan has also spoken out against paid family leave policies, which he complained in 2009 were “about giving a whole lot of people carte blanche to take off six weeks a year,” according to He reportedly claimed that such laws are anti-business, though experts such as the National Partnership for Women and Families say the policy “improves worker retention, which saves employers money through reduced turnover costs.”

If he is elected to the House, Lonegan may be able to weigh in on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He has been clear about his position on the health-care reform law, vowing in 2011 to be “callous and uncaring” on the subject. “I have no interest in paying for your health care,” he reportedly said during a debate. “I’d hate to see you get cancer, but that’s your problem, not mine.”

New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District is held by freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who beat out incumbent Republican Scott Garrett in 2016.

The seat was listed as a 2018 target by the National Republican Congressional Committee in February, and national Democrats have already zeroed in on defending Gottheimer as part of their “Frontline Program” to protect vulnerable incumbents in the midterm elections. The district is rated as a “tossup” by the Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call election guide, meaning “neither party has an edge” in the race. 

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