GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The Affordable Health Care Act limits choices, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said at a rally Tuesday in Smithville against “Obama-care” and for fellow Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan.

“Washington, D.C., wants to force this country into one-size-fits-all, you come and ask us if you want to put these programs in place,” Perry said. “I don’t think this is good for America.”

Perry endorsed Lonegan, saying, “This country needs to have individuals who have run something, run a city.” He said Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, Bergen County, has the experience that “I think Americans long for in the United States Senate.”

About 100 people attended the Smithville Inn event, the first of several Perry and Lonegan events scheduled for Tuesday around the state.

The Smithville event also included a separate $250 per-person Lonegan fundraiser.

Lonegan is running for the U.S. Senate seat that opened when U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg died in June. He faces his Democratic rival, Cory Booker on Oct. 16.

Derek Harper

Tuesday’s events come as the country enters the first day of a federal government shutdown provoked by congressional Republicans’ attempts to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Before the speech, Lonegan told reporters he preferred to have the fight on spending and government sooner than later. “This is the way to do it,” Lonegan said. “And, you know, if the only inconvenience is we’re shutting down national parks — I think we can live through that.”

Perry said lawmakers have made their point and should reopen government. Perry called on Obama particularly, saying, “Anybody who stands up and says ‘I’m not going to negotiate’ has got a problem.”

Lonegan said he invited Perry, seen as a potential rival to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, because Texas was a model for the rest of the country.

“Texas is what New Jersey was 50, 60 years ago,” Lonegan said. “A growth state. And we need to be a growth state in every one of the 50 states.”

Perry also responded to a recorded interview in which his wife, Anita Perry, said abortion was a “woman’s right” but she personally disagreed with it.

He said, “From time to time we’ll stick a wrong word in a wrong place and you[reporters’ll pounce upon it.”

New Jersey Democrats criticized Lonegan and Perry. In an email to supporters, Democrats disparaged Perry for being the governor of a state with the most minimum wage employees, and claimed he attacked Social Security and Medicaid as “Ponzi schemes.”

Lonegan, in his speech, recounted how the national debt has grown during the lives of his family, up to his expected grandchild. He said he is running for that child.

“I want my unborn grandchild to have the same opportunity for economic growth and freedom and liberty as we had,” Lonegan said. “You know what? If it takes some government shutdown to put America back on track, then guess what: let’s do it. I’m really sorry that today our national parks are closed.”

Lonegan characterized Obama and his opponent, “a guy from Newark named Cory Booker, my Hollywood stand-in for Barack Obama,” as unwilling to negotiate on health care.

“They will compromise on the Constitution, they will compromise on the Bill of Rights, but they will not compromise on how much of your money they want to spend,” Lonegan said.

While he said some would attempt to blame Republicans for the shutdown, Lonegan said, “Republicans had the guts to hold the line, and it’s about time.”

Middle Township resident Dianna Bart, 67, said she was happy after the speech.

She said she had recently gotten notice that her health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, was canceling coverage and referring her to a state-level heath care exchange.

That’s not what Obama promised, the retired nurse said. She said, “You can’t keep the health care you want if your health insurance company cancels coverage.”

Bart has supported Lonegan, delivering campaign literature and making phone calls. She wanted to see Perry speak. “I’m so glad that people are stepping up,” she said.

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