NJ-05: Lonegan nabs Doherty’s support; is Oroho next? And what does it all mean?

So state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) is the next endorsement for Team Lonegan in this year’s NJ-05 primary, announced a little bit earlier today by way of a press release. 

“North Jerseyeans know Steve Lonegan is a conservative warrior, a champion of conservative causes, and a leader in defeating big government scams like Jon Corzine’s toll hike scheme and Governor McGreevey’s embryonic stem cell research bond,” Doherty said in the campaign-released statement. “But voters need to know that Steve is also incredibly loyal and has been a supporter of mine every step of the way. I’m proud to support his congressional campaign.”

Doherty’s backing isn’t a surprise since they’ve been allies for awhile (despite falling on different sides on the 2016 Trump primary saga). Lonegan’s other significant endorsements to date (meaning “name” endorsements) are long-serving state Senator Gerry Cardinale (R-39) and national conservative lightning rod U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

There is also mounting evidence (both from insider sources and things clearly observable in the public record) suggesting that state Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) may go with Lonegan, too; the aforementioned ‘public record’ examples include the musings of a pro-Oroho blog focusing on Skylands territory politics that is aggressively (and regularly) attacking Lonegan’s sole remaining opponent former Cresskill Councilman John McCann

McCann (left) and Lonegan (right)

What does it all mean for the NJ-05 primary?

Some say endorsements mean next to nothing in these contests, particularly on the GOP side of the ledger where voters tend to be less tribal and more independent. I think there’s at least a little truth to that but it’s a situational, case-by-case analysis to be sure.

Assuming endorsements do indicate strength? To some degree? As much as 70%+ of the fall electorate (in terms of votes) may come from Bergen portions of NJ-05 based on historical data, the area of that district that’s grown the most in terms of raw population AND as a percentage of the district since the last redistricting process. Non-Bergen portions — including those represented by Doherty and Oroho — will likely make up a comparatively larger percentage than 30-something percent in a low-turnout primary but still more than likely less than 50% of the total voter pool. We don’t have reliable info on that point because, frankly, there hasn’t been a competitive GOP primary in NJ-05 since redistricting. We’re guesstimating for the sake of conversation!

Lonegan’s play would be to try and run up LARGE rural margins to combat whatever strength McCann, a veteran and well-known Bergen politico likely to receive the support of that county’s GOP organization, can exert in the Bergen portion of NJ-05. (Note: He won 50.1% of the NJ-05 towns versus Cory Booker in the 2013 U.S. Senate special election).

McCann may need to lean heavily on his ally Sussex County Sheriff Mike Strada who headlined McCann’s campaign launch in order to cut into Skylands/Water Gap Lonegan strength.

Early days, folks. Early days! But the NJ-05 primary contest is shaping up to be interesting in the early going.

The next thing to watch: does anyone else jump in the pool before it’s too late to swim?