Lonegan takes early aim at Booker

New Jersey's Senate primaries are still a few weeks away, but conservative Republican Steve Lonegan is already taking aim at Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The two men are both heavily favored in their respective races, so Lonegan is hardly bothering with attacks on GOP competitor Alieta Eck, a doctor from Somerset County, and is instead digging his teeth into Booker.

Today Lonegan launched a statewide radio ad contrasting his record when he was mayor of Bogota (a small North Jersey town) with Booker’s tenure in Newark. He also went to Newark for a press conference challenging Booker's record on education.

“Steve Lonegan cut spending, froze debt, kept taxes far below inflation. Cory Booker's Newark record? Debt up 57 percent, taxes up three times the cost of living and the nation's most expensive school failing and funded by suburban taxpayers,” the radio ad says.

Lonegan goes on to blast Booker for supporting Obamacare, abortion, “green energy rip-offs” and other liberal causes.

“New Jerseyans are fed up with Barack Obama and Cory Booker and their radical left-wing agenda,” Lonegan says.

UPDATE: The Booker campaign pointed to the mayor's vow to be a uniter in responding to the ad.

“It’s disappointing that Mr. Lonegan has chosen to introduce himself to New Jersey by falsely attacking the progress that’s been made in Newark," the campaign said. "Americans are sick of these sorts of dishonest, partisan attacks. They want people to go to Washington to bring people together and get things done. That’s what Mayor Booker will do if New Jersey voters give him the privilege of representing them in the Senate.”

This ad and response likely signals the tenor of the Booker-Lonegan campaign, should both win their Aug. 13 primaries. The special Senate election is Oct. 16.

Lonegan’s attack -- and one last week challenging Booker's proposals to fight child poverty -- comes as some of Booker’s Democratic rivals have challenged his credentials of the left.

Lonegan began his day in Newark, questioning if Booker supports school vouchers.

"Cory Booker has failed the children, the parents, and the taxpayers of Newark in never providing school choice and never solving the deep problems confronting Newark," said a Lonegan release.

Booker, who does not have direct authority over Newark schools because they are run by the state, has supported vouchers in the past, but Lonegan has taken issue with a comment Booker’s spokesman made to the Inquirer last week on the topic of vouchers.

On Thursday, his campaign, added to its previous statements:

"Mayor Booker’s first priority is strengthening public education so that every American child has access to high-quality public schools. There are too many places where schools are chronically failing our children, and he believes that where that is happening, parents must have options. We cannot afford to lose out on the promise of any New Jersey child by condemning her to a failing school. One of the most urgent callings of our democracy is to ensure that every child - rich or poor, urban or suburban - has a clear pathway to nurture their genius through a great public education.” 

In case you missed it, Booker was in Camden and Cherry Hill Wedneday night. Here's our story from Andrew Seidman.

You can follow Tamari on Twitter or email him at jtamari@phillynews.com.