TUCKERTON — Republican Senate candidate Steve Lonegan walked through the grounds of the 31st annual Ocean County Decoy & Gunning Show Sunday meeting supporters days before the first of two debates between him and Democratic opponent Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Lonegan walked arm-in-arm with his wife, Lorraine, as Tuckerton Mayor George “Buck” Evans introduced the Republican to people on the second day of the two-day show.

“These are the real working men and women of New Jersey,” Lonegan said as he made his way past booths displaying colorful birdhouses, wooden decoys and boating supplies.

Lonegan said the small-business owners at the show represented those that employ New Jersey residents, and his goal is to help them by reducing taxes and other hindrances to business.

Lonegan said he has been preparing for Friday’s debate. He said he was disappointed only two debates are scheduled before the Oct. 16 special election.

“He’s afraid to debate me. I will crush him on the issues,” Lonegan said. “I have a depth of knowledge that can be implemented in the U.S. Senate.”

Lonegan said his top two priorities are the economy and “individual liberty,” which he said is under assault from the federal government through agencies, such as the National Security Agency, and programs such as the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare.”

“I want to see real economic growth. These little businesses, this is what drives America,” he said.

As he walked through the show, Lonegan met supporters shaking hands and listening to their concerns about issues including mutual aid for municipalities to gun ownership.

“We’re going to get everybody out to vote,” promised one fan.

Evans, a Republican, said he supports Lonegan because he believes Lonegan would work for everyone, not just his friends.

“I believe he makes conscious decisions that not only represent his supporters but the whole population,” he said.

Evans often introduced Lonegan as “Sen. Lonegan.”

The show featured hunting displays, which prompted Lonegan to note he is a member of the National Rife Association, although his blindness does not allow him to shoot.

“It’s a freedom issue to me,” Lonegan said. “(New Jersey) is a tough state for gun owners. The last thing New Jersey needs is more gun laws.”

Lonegan said the shootings across the state often involve guns illegally owned. “The people who are law-abiding citizens are not the criminals,” he said.

Harold Spedding, the borough’s emergency management officer during Hurricane Sandy, said he will vote for Lonegan. Evans introduced the two as they made their way around the show.

“I have a lot of confidence in him. I’ve been reading a lot about him, and I think he would be an asset to the state,” Spedding said.

Lonegan left the show on his way to another appearance in Morristown, but not before his wife had a chance to sample some of the local foods being sold as fundraisers for local civic groups.

Lonegan said he loved campaigning.

“I get to meet people like this, so many people passionate about what they do,” he said.

As for Friday’s debate, aides said he is up every morning preparing and receives daily briefings on the issues.

He encouraged voters to watch Friday’s debate.

“What they will see is form versus substance,” Lonegan said.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:

609-463-6716