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Rand Paul to Campaign for Senate Candidate in NJ

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, fresh off a spat with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is coming to his rival’s home turf.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Alex Wong, Getty Images)

Paul, a Kentucky Republican, will endorse Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, at a banquet hall in Clark on Friday afternoon.

Lonegan has become an unlikely proxy for both libertarian Paul and law-and-order Christie, who verbally tangled in recent weeks over their differing views on the NSA’s warrantless wiretaps and Superstorm Sandy aid.

Christie said the libertarian thinking espoused by Paul and others is esoteric and dangerous because it fails to understand the dangers of terrorism. Paul said it was sad that Christie would use the “cloak of 9/11 victims” to prove a political point and, citing government spending, called Christie the “king of bacon.”

Christie, who endorsed Lonegan last month, will be noticeably absent from Friday’s rally. He has said he is taking his wife away for the weekend for her 50th birthday.

“In a choice between Mary Pat Christie and Rand Paul, it’s no choice for me,” Christie told reporters last week.

Lonegan, a conservative firebrand and Tea Party favorite, is more closely aligned ideologically with Paul than the moderate Christie.

Lonegan and Christie have a rocky relationship. Lonegan ran against Christie in the 2009 gubernatorial primary and has criticized Christie for not being conservative enough. Christie has a good working rapport with Lonegan’s Democratic rival, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Christie has been involved in Newark initiatives including its teacher’s contract, and Booker often talks of his bipartisan work with Christie on the campaign trial.

Lonegan and Paul agree that the United States should not intervene in Syria and that the NSA’s program is overly intrusive.

“If you want to vote for the candidate who will stand up and oppose the Syrian war and your right to privacy and against overzealous government surveillance,” Paul said in an interview with The Associated Press, “that candidate is Steve Lonegan.”

Paul slammed Booker, bringing up T-Bone, a drug dealer Booker referenced in speeches. In a 2008 interview with Esquire, Booker said T-Bone is “1,000 percent real” but also admitted he was an “archetype.” The conservative National Review wrote a story last month titled “Cory Booker’s Imaginary Friend” about the drug dealer.

“Steve Lonegan is more concerned with real workers and unemployment and how we get the government growing again,” Paul said, adding that Booker would “raise taxes and raise regulations.”

Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis said Lonegan has a problem “telling the truth” in his campaign.

“We appreciate his campaign bringing another Tea Party leader to New Jersey to highlight Mr. Lonegan’s opposition to Sandy aid, his support for a plan that would raise taxes on the working and middle classes and his advocacy of policies that would roll back women’s rights,” Griffis said in an email.

Booker and Lonegan are vying to replace the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. The election is Oct. 16.

Paul, an ophthalmologist, said he was “fascinated” by Lonegan, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes the retina to degenerate, as a teenager. Lonegan is now legally blind.

“When I first met Steve Lonegan I wasn’t sure if he couldn’t see,” Paul said. “I think he carries himself very well, gets around great and seems to have lived a very productive life. That’s what I think all of us admire — people who overcome obstacles to lead a productive life.”

As for Christie, Paul said he is “very disappointed” that the governor will be out of town, and that he would “catch him at another time.”

Paul offered last month to have a beer with Christie to settle the spat; Christie said he doesn’t have the time. Paul said the offer still stands.

“An olive branch with a nice New Jersey beer,” Paul said, “Or if he comes down here we’ll buy him one down here.”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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