Christie: The Clear Frontrunner

By: Michael M. Shapiro

He has the name recognition. He has the record. He has the money. Now, he has won the first Republican Convention in a cake-walk; Chris Christie is the clear frontrunner in the Republican race for Governor of New Jersey.

This past weekend, former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie convincingly won the Union County Republican Convention which was held in Summit at the Lawton C. Johnson middle school, garnering 74.4% of the vote. The closest competitor was former Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan who received 21%. The remaining candidates, including Assemblyman Rick Merkt (R-Mendham), Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine and South Brunswick inventor David Brown, combined for less than 5% of the vote.
The win also promotes the prospects of two local residents for the position of Lieutenant Governor: Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (D-21) and former Congressional candidate Kelly Hatfield. Both supported Christie and both are rumored to be in consideration for the number two position on the ballot in November.
Republicans will now begin to coalesce around Christie so that he is able to raise enough funds to best Governor Corzine in the general election if Mr. Corzine makes it past the Democratic Primary. Former Republican State Senator and Independent candidate for Governor, Bill Schluter, has publicly stated that he will support Christie over all comers. Others are certain to follow close behind.
Meanwhile, since Christie is sure to soak up most of the media oxygen that is available, the remaining Republicans in the field need to figure out a way to garner media attention and raise enough funding to compete. Without media attention, the other Republican candidates will have a very difficult time building name recognition and raising funds.
Steven Lonegan, the former Bogota Mayor, is the only Republican, besides Christie, in the current field that has the ability to draw media attention and funding. Lonegan, who has high name recognition in conservative circles and has received national media attention for his positions on social issues, demonstrated that he is head-and-shoulders above the remaining candidates in the field with his 20%+ showing at the Union County Republican Convention. His problem, however, is that Christie is a powerhouse who has substantial approval among all facets of the Republican party (as well as significant support among Independents and even a fair amount of support among Democrats), while Lonegan has little backing outside of his conservative Republican base. As such, Lonegan’s chances to defeat Christie are slim.
That said, a lot can occur between now and the June primary. A major gaffe by Christie or a sudden hot-button conservative issue that plays well with moderates could catapult Lonegan into a promising position in the race. For now, though, it is Christie’s race to lose.

Michael M. Shapiro is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Editor of The Alternative Press, http://www.TheAlternativePress.com, New Jersey’s first all-online daily newspaper serving Berkeley Heights, Livingston, Millburn/Short Hills, New Providence, and Summit, New Jersey. Contact Mike at MikeShapiro@TheAlternativePress.com

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