Is Rick Shaftan running Steve Lonegan's campaign again?
Steve Lonegan, last year's candidate for United States Senate and one-time Bergen County Mayor, is now a candidate for the U.S. Congress down in South Jersey. Last year's campaign was noted for its frequent off-color mistakes by Lonegan -- everything from a tweet that Lonegan had to defend as "not meant to be racist", to an election eve meltdown by Sussex County's top political consultant, Rick Shaftan, who was running Lonegan's campaign. Shaftan bashed Senator Cory Booker for acting "like a gay guy would". Full coverage can be found here:
There's something about Steve Lonegan's anger and arrogance that reminds us of George Wallace, the late Democratic Governor of Alabama. Shaftan has always sought to reinforce that image, going as far as donning a Strom Thurmond tee-shirt for their moment of film celebrity in the documentary, Anytown U.S.A.
All this came to mind after Lonegan tweeted his newest campaign attack ad -- against the latest in a long list of opponents, Tom MacArthur of Toms River. Lonegan attacked MacArthur, a former small town mayor like himself, for "promoting diversity" because a small number of affordable housing units are to be built in his small town. Now Lonegan knows, as all 500-plus small town mayors in New Jersey know, that they have to comply with state law and allow affordable housing to be built. And the reason this works for many small towns is that much of that housing is snapped up by seniors on fixed incomes who face having to move out of state, away from children and grandchildren, if they fail to find cheaper accommodation.
This all brings to mind the 2008 municipal election in Sparta Township, the most overtly racist in Sussex County memory, that pitted incumbent Scott Seelagy against Carey Ann Shaftan, then the wife of Rick Shaftan. Shaftan's campaign literature equated affordable housing with people of color migrating from Newark into Sussex County. Shaftan warned against a wave of incoming "mental patients, ex-cons, drug addicts, and others" who would "increase crime and destroy property values." Shaftan's literature used the same housing motif found in the attack ad Lonegan tweeted.
Shaftan ran on a platform that "no one has a right to live anywhere they want, people have a right to live where they can afford. That is what America is all about." Shaftan lost that election, but not before a whole lot of people were offended. Now, six years later, it's déjà vu all over again.
If Steve Lonegan is serious about winning a General Election, he needs to curb his baser instincts and wise up.