Home>Campaigns>It’s Jack and Diane: Ciattarelli picks Allen as Lt. Governor candidate

Former State Sen. Diane Allen. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

It’s Jack and Diane: Ciattarelli picks Allen as Lt. Governor candidate

Former five-term South Jersey senator, TV news anchor, picked as Ciattarelli running mate

By David Wildstein, August 02 2021 3:31 pm

Former State Sen. Diane Allen will be the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor, the New Jersey Globe has learned, with Jack Ciattarelli set to announce his choice of running mates on Wednesday at an event in Moorestown.

Allen is a legendary lawmaker whose 22-year record in the state legislature has won plaudits from Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.   First Lady Tammy Murphy contributed $1,000 to Allen’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2002.

A proven vote-getter in South Jersey, where she won six elections in a largely Democratic district along the Delaware River, Allen was widely-known as a television news anchor for network affiliates in Philadelphia.

With Allen, Ciattarelli gets a running mate who comes with immediate gravitas – and one that won’t hesitate to throw a punch, particularly on issues of sexual harassment.

Prior to launching her political career 26 years ago, Allen was widely-known as a television news anchor and journalist.

She was the New Jersey Network statehouse reporter during Brendan Byrne’s first term as governor.  Later, she became the news anchors for ABC and CBS affiliates in Philadelphia.  She and NJN chief political reporter Michael Aron moderated the 1985 New Jersey Gubernatorial Debate.

Allen filed three complaints against CBS with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging sexism and age discrimination.  In 1994, Allen sued CBS for discriminatory practices and won.

As a result of her experiences, Allen championing pay equity for women and fighting workplace discrimination and harassment.

Three months after taking office, Murphy signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which strengthened protections for pay equity and employment discrimination.  Allen had advocated for the measure for years.

At the bill signing, Murphy told Allen that the new law “cements your legacy as a lawmaker who worked across the aisle to do the right things for our state.”

Diane Allen as daredevil hang-glider in 1973.

She’s also one of New Jersey’s most eclectic politicians.  A former Miss Burlington County, she was also a daredevil hang-glider – Allen won a national hang-gliding championship in 1973 — judo expert, national swimming champion, pilot, and sharpshooter.

Allen, 73, had been atop Ciattarelli’s wish list for some time, although the campaign went through an extensive process of considering other candidates.  Joining Allen in the final five were Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Mendham), Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-Ocean City), Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

She will now compete with Murphy’s running mate, incumbent Sheila Oliver, for the post that is one heartbeat away from the governorship.

Twelve years ago, Allen was the runner-up in the Lt. Governor sweepstakes when Republican Chris Christie instead picked Kim Guadagno as his running mate.

A moderate Republican, Allen launched a political action committee after leading the Senate to encourage women from both parties to run for public office – and put people ahead of party politics and appealing to their bases.

“We want her to take her cues from those she represents and not those who are in smoke-filled backrooms,” she said in 2018.  “I’ve never been invited to them, so I’m not sure what they’re like.”

As a legislator, Allen authored the NJSAVER rebate plan and sponsored legislation to help senior citizens double their Homestead Rebate checks.   During her final year in the Senate, Allen sought to override Christie’s conditional veto of an equal pay law that had cleared the legislature.

While Ciattarelli stated publicly that he would not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Allen was sometimes critical of Trump but never said she wouldn’t support him.

“There are things he does that drive me crazy. Could someone take his phone away from him at night, please?” Allen told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2017.  “But I understand half the people in this country voted for significant change. And they’re getting it.

Allen began her career in 1970 as a reporter and news editor for WJJZ, a Mount Holly-based radio station.  After working at NJN, she worked as a reporter for an ABC affiliate in Chicago before earning a job with major networks in Philadelphia.

She won eight Daytime Emmy Awards.

In 2000, Allen briefly returned to journalism as a temporary news anchor for CN8 while Grace Hargis was on vacation. That led Richard Codey, then the minority leader of the Senate, to criticize her for being a politician and a journalist at the same time.

The Murphy campaign said that Ciattarelli’s selection of Allen “cannot paper over the fact that he is an extremist who would drag New Jersey backward and undo the progress of the past four years.”

“From headlining a ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally alongside white supremacists to slashing funding for public education and opposing women’s reproductive rights, the Assemblyman is out-of-touch with New Jersey values and voters will reject the Ciattarelli-Trump agenda,” said Jerrel Harvey, a Murphy for governor spokesman.

Launch of Allen’s political career

Diane Allen was Miss Burlington County in 1969.

Burlington County GOP Chairman Glenn Paulsen recruited Allen to enter politics.   The plan was to have her run for the State Assembly in 1995 to set up a State Senate campaign in 1997.

Allen beat Democratic Assemblyman Steven Petrillo (D-Pennsauken) by 3,359 votes, helping running mate Carmine DeSopo, the superintendent of a special education school district in Burlington, win by 3,000 votes.  Then-Senate President Donald DiFrancesco and Paulsen raised about $1.1 million for that race – the first time a New Jersey legislative campaign moved into the seven-figure zone.

When she ran for the Senate two years later, the incumbent Democrat, Jack Casey (D-Palmyra), didn’t even bother running. He announced his retirement about a month before the filing deadline, citing medical treatment he was receiving from a 1995 car accident.

Allen defeated former Delran Councilman Robert Broderick by 5,374 votes.  In the very Democratic year of 2001, She was re-elected by a 4,463-vote margin, 54%046%, against Democrat Louis Gallagher.  Gallagher was a U.S. Navy SEAL reservist called up for active duty after 9/11, leading to an extraordinarily civil debate with the candidate’s wife, Karen.

In 2002, Allen entered the race for the Republican nomination for United States Senate.  The incumbent, Bob Torricelli, was facing ethical issues and the GOP was itching for their first U.S. Senate win in thirty years.

Most of the GOP county organizations had lined up behind Jim Treffinger, the two-term Essex County Executive.  Also in the race were John Matheussen, a four-term Senator from Gloucester County, and millionaire businessman Douglas Forrester.

New Jersey Network Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron, left, and KYW-TV News anchor Diane Allen as panelists at the 1985 New Jersey gubernatorial debate. between Gov. Tom Kean and Essex County Executive Peter Shapiro.

Four days after the filing deadline, the FBI raided Treffinger’s Newark offices.   A couple of days later, Treffinger was out.

The party leaders coalesced behind Forrester, who pledged to self-fund his campaign.  This was two years after Jon Corzine spent $75 million on a Senate seat, and the GOP learned which side they’d rather be on in a money war.

At the time, two Republican County Chairmen unjustly voiced concern about Allen’s religious beliefs.  They questioned whether Allen, a Quaker, would be tough on defense issues in the first national election after the 9/11 attacks.

Forrester put over $3 million in the primary and won every county north of Burlington and a 16,799-viote win, 45%-37%, statewide.

Allen ran strong in South Jersey.  She carried her home county, Burlington, with 72%, and won Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties.  Matheussen won only his home county, Gloucester, despite being on the organization line in Camden and Cumberland.

The story is an old one by now.  Torricelli dropped out of the race at the end of September, and Frank Lautenberg came in and beat Forrester.

Diane Allen as a reporter for Jerseyvision, later NJN News, in 1973. (Photo: David Wildstein Collection).

One of her closest friends, Candy Straight, told the New Jersey Globe about a week before she died last month that if the Republicans had nominated Allen instead of Forrester, she would still be in the U.S. Senate today.

The New York Times endorsed Allen for U.S. Senate in 2002.

Allen easily won re-election in with 60% in 2003, 56% in 2007, 57% in 2011 and 60% in 2013.  When she won her last campaign eight years ago, the 7th district had 23,471 more Democrats than Republicans.

Through the entire 20 years that Allen held the Senate seat, Democrats occupied both of the district’s Assembly seats.

She served as Senate Majority Whip when Republicans controlled the Senate, and later as Deputy Minority Leader.

Republicans had hoped that Allen would run for Congress when Rep. Jim Saxton retired in 2008, but she declined.

In early 2017, Allen announced that she would not seek re-election to a seventh term in the Senate.

Allen remains the last Republican to win the 7th district, which has become increasingly more Democratic during her 22 years in office.  Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton won the seat by 19,456 votes (66%).

When Allen said she would not run again, Singleton praised Allen as “the truest embodiment of what it means to be a public servant.”

“Her unwavering commitment to the residents of the 7th district is a model that I have always tried to emulate,” Singleton said.

Allen was an early supporter of Ciattarelli’s bid for the Republican nomination for governor.  In 2020, Ciattarelli announced that Allen would supervise his campaign’s anti-harassment policies.

The two running mates also share a common bond as cancer survivors.  More than a decade ago, Allen successfully battled an aggressive form of oral cancer.

They also ran their own small businesses: Allen founded a media production company after her own broadcasting career ended.

The valedictorian of the Moorestown High School Class of 1966 and a graduate of Bucknell University, Allen lives in Edgewater Park with her husband of nearly 50 years, Sam Allen.  She is the mother of two and a grandmother of four.

This story was updated at 6:02 PM with comment from Harvey.

Gov. Phil Murphy signs the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act on April 4, 2018. (Photo: Facebook).
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