Meet An "Ultraconservative" in New Jersey

Times reporters never use the term "ultraliberal" to describe politicians, but Steve Lonegan, a former mayor running in the New Jersey Republican gubernatorial primary, was called "ultraconservative" twice in three days by David Halbfinger.

The Times Metropolitan section Saturday featured an update on Tuesday's Republican primary for the New Jersey governor's race, pitting centrist Republican Chris Christie against conservative (or as the Times calls him, "ultraconservative") Steve Lonegan. New Jersey Republicansvote tomorrowto decide which onewill battle liberal Democrat incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine in the fall.

In Halbfinger's Saturday piece, "Campaign For Governor Splits G.O.P. In New Jersey," he painted Lonegan,the former mayor of Bogota, N.J., as the "Ultraconservative former small-town mayor" pushing his primary opponent Christie "far to the right."

Nationally, the Republican Party is wrestling with ponderous issues of ideological purity, the Bush administration's legacy and its own future leadership.

But in New Jersey, Republicans confront a more urgent question: can the party win statewide elections anymore?

Winless since 1997, and facing a weakened Democratic governor, the Republican establishment turned to a seemingly perfect candidate this year: Christopher J. Christie, a centrist former federal prosecutor who had won the convictions of 130 corrupt politicians and public employees.

But three days before Tuesday's primary, Mr. Christie and his supporters are desperately working to placate conservative voters and hold the fractured party together so they can take on Gov. Jon S. Corzine in the fall.

Wreaking havoc with the party leaders' plans is Steven M. Lonegan, an ultraconservative former small-town mayor, who has been pushing Mr. Christie far to the right - and whose latest advertisements smear him as "just another lying politician."

Monday's story by Halbfinger also tarred Lonegan as "ultraconservative."

"This is going to be the most important Republican primary in the nation!" shouted Steven M. Lonegan, the ultraconservative candidate, as he urged voters in Ocean City to cast their ballots as much for him as "against the Republican party bosses and their record of miserable failure."

By contrast, no Times reporter has labeled any politician "ultraliberal" during the last five years, according to a Nexis search.