The editorial board of New Jersey’s top newspaper is calling on a GOP candidate for Congress to withdraw from the race over bigoted comments, including an anti-gay slur, that he uttered more than a decade ago.
Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N. J. and a 2013 candidate for the U.S. Senate, allegedly called Councilman George Silos, a fellow Republican a “fundamentalist faggot piece of shit” at a council meeting in 2006. Lonegan also reportedly threatened to go outside and fight Silos, twice, at that same meeting.
Silos, who is married to a woman and has two children, says he was bothered by Lonegan’s “thug” behavior and choice of words, which he has characterized as “ugly and hateful.”
“It was an anti-gay homophobic slur,” he says.
To this day, Silos insists that Lonegan used the slur because he was angry that the councilman was supporting a police officer whom Lonegan had asked for a political favor.
“That’s what spewed out,” Silos told the Star-Ledger. “He’s got the mentality of a 9-year-old schoolyard bully.”
At the time, Silos sent an email to GOP leaders complaining about Lonegan’s attack against him, which he feels was aimed at his religion. Silos is evangelical, and felt the “fundamentalist” moniker was an indication that Lonegan, who is Catholic, “doesn’t like my brand of Christianity.”
Silos also complained that Lonegan had threatened him prior to that council meeting, telling him in a three-way phone conversation, “I’ll cut your balls off.”
Bogota GOP Chairman Andrew Fede has testified under oath to knowing about Lonegan’s remarks at the meeting, and said Silos told him about the earlier phone threat.
But now it appears that Lonegan is getting his comeuppance now that he’s announced his candidacy for New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District. Silos says he’s bringing up the attack against him now, before the primary, because he knows that U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), one of only a handful of vulnerable Democrats this cycle, will use it against Lonegan should he win the Republican nomination.
Lonegan denies making the alleged comment, but did not deny it in 2006. And a spokesman for the Lonegan campaign didn’t deny it when confronted with the quotes, conceding that his boss had used “some naughty words.”
But the Star-Ledger isn’t having any of that, and is calling on Lonegan to step down and allow a stronger Republican to face off against Gottheimer in the general election.
“To believe Lonegan, we have to believe his fellow Republicans hatched a fake plot to get him more than a decade ago. Please. A more likely explanation is that Lonegan knows this quote makes him radioactive in New Jersey. He should quit now, and end the drama,” the editorial reads.
The editorial board notes that Lonegan could be repeating the mistakes of former U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, who lost to Gottheimer after Wall Street donors pulled their support due comments from Garrett that Republicans should stop supporting openly gay candidates for office. Gottheimer and Democratic allies hammered Garrett for those comments, and would do the same thing to Lonegan if he wins the primary, the editorial board worries.
“And it’s not just one homophobic comment. Lonegan’s record is fundamentally biased against gays. He’s questioned the right and ability of same-sex couples to raise children, or marry. He even opposed civil unions,” the editorial reads, referring to stances Lonegan took when he ran against Cory Booker in a special election in 2013.
The Star-Ledger concludes: “[Lonegan]’s shrugging off this story in the same way now, as ‘an allegation of name-calling from a dozen years ago.’ But it’s a plausible one, and a hateful slur that should disqualify him from Congress.”
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