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

With Diane Allen as LG pick, Republicans foresee boost in state legislative races

Democrats more skeptical that Allen will have coattails

By Joey Fox, August 03 2021 5:36 pm

With Jack Ciattarelli picking former State Sen. Diane Allen as his running mate, the Republican nominee for governor no doubt hopes South Jersey will appreciate that he chose one of their own for his gubernatorial ticket – the first time that’s happened since 1993. But Ciattarelli’s choice may also have consequences elsewhere: on the battle for state legislative seats.

South Jersey is home to the two districts, the 2nd and the 8th, that are shaping up to be the most competitive districts in the state this November. While other districts around the state are leaning more obviously towards one party or the other, both parties agree that the 2nd and 8th districts are top-tier races.

In Atlantic County’s 2nd district, which includes Atlantic City, Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Northfield) is vying to flip the open Senate seat, and Democrats want to retain both Mazzeo’s seat and that of Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena Vista).

The Burlington County-based 8th district, conversely, is home to party-switching State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham), who is trying to fend off a challenge from Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) while her party works to flip both Assembly seats.

In both districts, Allen’s lieutenant gubernatorial bid may be a helpful boost to Republican candidates, providing South Jersey representation and connections that have largely been absent in recent statewide campaigns.

8th district Republicans in particular could stand to benefit from sharing a ticket with Allen. Before her time in elected office, Allen was a popular network news anchor in the Philadelphia media market, and her territory in the State Senate was directly adjacent to the 8th district.

“I think Republicans in Burlington County should be pretty excited about having [Allen] back on the ticket, because she was a draw,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “And she should be a draw. Jean Stanfield should be pretty excited about having her as a running mate… I would say Jack [Ciattarelli] has done the 8th district race a favor here.”

Stanfield herself agreed that Allen – who is also her personal friend and mentor – would be a key factor in her race against Addiego.

“I know people will be running to the polls to vote for her,” Stanfield said. “It’s definitely going to be a big boost for us. She’s got everyone’s respect and fantastic name recognition, so having her as part of the team is going to give us quite a boost.”

Though the 2nd district is geographically remote from Allen’s Burlington County base, she still likely retains some name recognition from her days as a television journalist, and her South Jersey bona fides may still prove helpful to Republican candidates running in the district.

Among Allen’s 2nd district proponents is Harry Hurley, a conservative talk radio host from Atlantic County.

“She matters here because when she’s campaigning with [Senate nominee] Vince Polistina and with [Assembly nominees] Don Guardian and Claire Swift – that’s a whole lot better for the District 2 ticket than someone that nobody knows,” Hurley said. “So, yeah, she’s a difference maker in this.”

Democrats, for their part, are less convinced that a lieutenant gubernatorial nominee who hasn’t faced voters since 2013 will be a significant game changer in either race.

“We’re running a race about the issues that matter to residents in Burlington, Camden, and Atlantic Counties,” the Addiego campaign said in a statement that declined to mention Allen. “We like our chances against a taxpayer-funded double-dipping career politician like Jean Stanfield.”

There is also some history of bad blood between Addiego and Allen, who sharply criticized Addiego’s 2019 defection to the Democratic Party.

“When my former colleague, Senator Dawn Addiego, abandoned the Republican Party and became a Democrat, it was a clear betrayal of all the Republicans who had donated to her campaign or volunteered to help win election and re-election multiple times,” Allen said at the time.

Rasmussen, though he praised Allen as a smart pick for South Jersey voters, echoed Democrats in cautioning just how much influence a lieutenant gubernatorial nominee could have on the race.

“We probably should not lose sight of the fact that voters, by and large, do not make their decision based on who the vice presidential candidate or the lieutenant governor candidate is,” Rasmussen said. “And that’s not going to change here. We’re not going to see somehow that, you know, people are suddenly going to make up their minds based on who the number two candidate is on the ticket.”

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