In a press conference that was equal measure Cory Booker critique and pre-emptive defense against a perceived future attack he’s certain is coming, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Steve Lonegan said the two-time Newark mayor’s plan to add jobs and spur innovation is wrongheaded.
On the second stop in his “Expose Cory Booker” tour, Lonegan appeared in Teaneck in front of an empty lot in a residential neighborhood lot located a little more than a block away from Bogota Borough Hall, where the former small-town mayor once had an office.
Lonegan blasted Booker’s jobs plan, unveiled earlier this month at a union textile manufacturer. It calls for the creation of “manufacturing universities” that integrate industry needs into class offerings; bolstering Chicago-style manufacturing high schools; the creation of a national certification system for manufacturing skills; and support of 24 “manufacturing innovation institutes,’’ proposed by the Obama administration to bolster the two-dozen identified manufacturing industries in the country.
Lonegan said the plan was too costly and would be would be wholly ineffective at best.
“Cory Booker’s plan demonstrates a lack of knowledge or understanding of the American dream, of the private sector, of small business and of the animal spirits that drive creativity and ingenuity in this country,’’ Lonegan said.
Using historical examples of innovators like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, Lonegan several times said businesses eschew government, viewing it as anathema to innovation.
“That’s something that Cory Booker’s manufacturing innovation plan will destroy by stagnating ingenuity and economic growth and putting America on the course towards the ash heap of history,” Lonegan said. “I believe that threatens America’s future.”
Lonegan said if elected, he would take the opposite tack.
“I’m going to fight for tax cuts,’’ Lonegan said. “I’m going to fight to cut regulation on small businesses and all businesses, especially the kinds of regulations that made it take almost six months just to get permits to build this simple house.”
Lonegan owns the empty lot at 212 Elm Ave. Workers behind him were preparing the lot for the construction of a home he plans to build and then sell.
"I wanted to get my ownership of a small business and that I build houses out into the open so that when I am attacked for being a capitalist, I will have already laid the groundwork for what that means,'' Lonegan said.
When asked why he thought he would be attacked for building a house, Lonegan said he was sure that’s the way the election was going to go.
“I just anticipate that I will be attacked on a lot of things,” Lonegan said. “Why? Because that’s what this is going to devolve to in this election.”
Lonegan was questioned by two neighbors about overgrown grass on the property, which was vacant for some time before Lonegan bought it, and about rumor of a crime committed there.
“But there you go, you see,’’ Lonegan said. “I bought this property I think six weeks ago and I’m going to clean it up and make it into a beautiful home and already people want to attack me on it.’’
A spokesman for Booker shot back Thursday.
"Steve Lonegan’s irrelevant ‘attack first, ask questions never’ tour continues," said Kevin Griffis, Booker spokesman. "For the record, as a founder of a tech start-up and as a fierce advocate for Newark businesses, Mayor Booker is OK with capitalism."
Lonegan also took shots at the League of Women Voters when asked why he refused to attend a debate with his GOP rival hosted by the group ahead of the Aug. 13 primary election.
Lonegan has taken some heat recently for turning down a debate with Alieta Eck, Somerset County doctor and Lonegan's sole competitor for the Republican nomination to run for the seat of late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, because the League was going to moderate the event.
"They're pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-progressive tax,'' Lonegan said. "On every issue they're on the opposite side of the spectrum and I refuse to take part in debates that are hosted by an organization that is not, non-partisan.''