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The New Jersey Gubernatorial Race: Why You Should Care

Attention political junkies — the New Jersey GOP gubernatorial primary is Tuesday. Two reasons you should care, even if you aren’t a Republican and you don’t live in the Garden State:

  • The New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial campaigns are this year’s only major races. There is nowhere else to get your political fix.
  • This primary will test the viability of Republican candidates who try to play to the party’s extremes, as opposed to taking a more centrist approach. The winner will try to unseat Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in November (this race was previously considered a sure-thing for Corzine, but recent polls show he could be vulnerable).

In New Jersey’s Republican primary, one of the contenders is the very conservative former small-town mayor, Steve Lonegan, up against relative moderate Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney. Lonegan, whose campaign argued yesterday that Republicans should support him because the “liberal” media endorsed Christie, intends to lure voters by trotting out people like the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrest and ideas like a flat income tax rate of 2.9 percent to inspire the far-right.

Lonegan today accused Christie of ignoring the “illegal alien” problem because he only brought 13 cases against illegal immigrants in seven years as U.S. attorney. From a Lonegan campaign statement:

Chris Christie thinks illegal immigration is not a crime and his record as U.S. Attorney –virtually ignoring the problem–proves that’s his real position. As Governor, I will roll up [current Democratic Gov. Jon] Corzine’s red carpet for illegals and take back our state, before it’s too late.

Christie, who’s been bashed for having a foggy agenda and changing his abortion stance (he’s now pro-life), is expected to be endorsed Thursday by former GOP presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (who is no stranger to abortion flip-flopping himself). However, some suspect Romney made the last-minute pick to shore up Garden State support for a potential 2012 presidential campaign.

Lonegan also recently won the backing of another Republican who sought the presidential nomination last year: fellow tax foe, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Although polls have long called Christie the favorite, recent reports note slight movement to the right by Christie — indicating he may be worried about the effectiveness of Lonegan’s strategy with some Republican primary voters.

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