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Congressman Steve Lonegan: Not That Far-Fetched An Idea

Okay, so there weren’t enough voters who cottoned to the idea of Steve Lonegan as a United States Senator from New Jersey. The question now circulating is whether there are enough in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District to give him a seat in the House of Representatives.

Steve Lonegan delivers his concession speech
Steve Lonegan (News 12 New Jersey)

According to a piece in nj.com, the onetime Mayor of Bogota claims that some close supporters are urging him to enter the Republican sweepstakes for the seat that Representative Jon Runyan will leave on his retirement at the end of 2014.

So far, the only elected official who has launched a campaign is Democrat Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgaard.

Some Democrat insiders see Runyan’s decision as an opportunity to recapture the post that the late John Adler won following the retirement of Jim Saxton. Adler’s base was in Cherry Hill, only a stone’s throw from the district’s Ocean and Burlington County turf.

Lonegan’s home is in Bogota, where he served as Mayor, a good 70 miles north. Can he represent an area in which he doesn’t live?

The United States Constitution says, sure, no problem. It’s in Article 1, Section 2:

“No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”

Nowhere in there does it say that residence must be within a district’s borders. And, according to the Clerk of the House’s web site, the stipulation can be changed only through a Constitutional amendment.

Probably a good idea, since redistricting resets borders every time, and the Third has morphed so many times it can hardly recognize itself. Ocean didn’t become part of it until 1902, and counties as far afield as Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex had stays in the numerical designation in the mid-1800s.

Lonegan, former State Director of Americans For Prosperity, has generated a sizable shore following through his two gubernatorial campaigns and his Senate run. There is nothing to suggest that his luster has diminished among loyalists, lending substance to any consideration of a Congressional run.

One caveat: As a Governor, he would have been a sole authority figure. As a U.S Senator, he would have been one of 100 legislators – a little tougher to be heard above the din but still audible. In the House, he’d be one of 435 people, all struggling to effect change in the committees to which they’re assigned, rushing back to their home turfs regularly and raising campaign funds practically as they start their two-year terms.

So, perhaps the question isn’t whether he should consider the prospect, but how effective he could be if he was to win the seat.

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