Steve Lonegan, the conservative former mayor who lost a special election for New Jersey's U.S. Senate seat in October, said Friday he'll make another bid for public office, trying for the seat held by retiring Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), the Star-Ledger reports.
"I have the hottest donor list in the country. My name ID there is over 90 percent," Lonegan told the paper. "I have a terrific campaign team that's ready to rock, is experienced and seasoned."
The announcement, coming the day before the Burlington County Republican Party began its screening process, drew a swift rebuke from chairman Bill Layton.
"He decided what he always does: It's not what's in the best interest of the party, it's what's in the best interest of Steve Lonegan," said Layton, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He'll meet the same fate he's met in every election, and that's that he'll lose."
Evesham Township Mayor Randy Brown, a competitor for the seat, criticized Lonegan for failing to work first with local party leaders, PolitickerNJ reported.
"We have a team here, that's the concept that Steve doesn't get," said Brown, a former NFL coach with the Baltimore Ravens. "The whole idea here is for the team to build the best candidate."
Lonegan -- a Tea Party favorite who received endorsements for his Senate race from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) -- made national headlines in August for comments about his opponent Cory Booker's sexual orientation.
When Booker declined to respond to the insinuations, Lonegan said, "It's kind of weird. As a guy, I personally like being a guy. I don't know if you saw the stories last year. They've been out for quite a bit about how he likes to go out at three o'clock in the morning for a manicure and a pedicure."
During his Senate campaign, Lonegan called for abolishing the minimum wage, questioned whether climate change is man-made and supported shutting down the federal government to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Layton said Friday the party would screen 13 Republican candidates for the nomination in the competitive district, which President Barack Obama narrowly carried in both of his presidential campaigns. Lonegan won 54 percent of the district's vote in his Senate race.
A former mayor of Bogota, N.J., Lonegan still lives in his hometown, but he told NJTV that he intends to relocate to the 3rd Congressional District this month.
"I have got terrific support on the ground from mayors, municipal chairmen, elected officials," Lonegan told the Burlington County Times. "Will I have the party bosses' support? I don't know about that."
Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard is running for the Democratic nomination.