08/29/2013 06:21 pm ET

Steve Lonegan Says Election Not About Cory Booker's Sexual Orientation

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan with his wife Lorraine by his side, makes his victory speech after defeating A
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan with his wife Lorraine by his side, makes his victory speech after defeating Alieta Eck for the nomination in the special election primary in Secaucus, N.J. Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

New Jersey Republican U.S. Senate nominee Steve Lonegan on Thursday tried to escape comments he made about Democratic opponent Cory Booker's sexuality, saying the election is not about Booker's lifestyle.

Speaking to reporters in Paramus, Lonegan tried to focus on potential U.S. military involvement in Syria and resisted revisiting comments he made Wednesday questioning Booker's sexuality. Lonegan said it was "weird" for Booker to have said he doesn't have a problem if people believe he's gay.

“I’m concerned about a potential war in Syria, not validating Cory Booker’s lifestyle,” PolitickerNJ.com reported Lonegan said on Thursday. “This election is not about whether or not Cory Booker is gay or straight.”

Lonegan, a former Bogota, N.J., mayor and New Jersey director of the Koch brothers-backed group Americans for Prosparity, said he wanted to know if Booker would "rubber stamp" President Barack Obama's decision on Syria. The comments came after a Lonegan press conference with Syrian-American leaders in New Jersey to say the U.S. should not get involved in Syria.

Lonegan caused a firestorm Wednesday when he told Newsmax that he "liked being a guy" drinking Scotch whiskey and smoking cigars. Lonegan's comments to reporters on Thursday was his first attempt to clarify the statement.

"As a guy, I personally like being a guy," Lonegan said on Wednesday. "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. ... I have a more peculiar fetish. I like a good Scotch and a cigar."

Lonegan adviser Rick Shaftan told the Bergen Record on Wednesday that Lonegan was not discussing "whether the guy's gay or not." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who has endorsed Lonegan, distanced himself from the remarks.

Booker told HuffPost Live on Wednesday that Lonegan "really misses the boat on what it means to be a man in America."

Lonegan and Booker are competing in a Oct. 16 special election to fill the Senate seat left open by the June death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). Booker has consistently led in the polls.



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