Senate hopeful Allen claims she’s GOP’s anti-Toricelli

Edgewater Park state senator seeks support of local Republicans.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Portraying herself as a coalition-building state senator, Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) Tuesday sought the support of local Republicans for her bid for the party’s nomination for a U.S. Senate seat.
   Ms. Allen spoke to members of the Republican Association of Princeton at a breakfast gathering at the Nassau Club.
   Benefiting from name recognition after her 20 years of reporting and anchoring experience for Philadelphia TV stations, Ms. Allen said she leads the field of six candidates in the Republican primary, scheduled for June 4.
   "We need someone who is a real contrast to (incumbent Democratic Sen. Robert) Torricelli and I believe I am that contrast," said Ms. Allen.
   Ms. Allen, 52, served one term in the state Assembly before moving up to the state Senate, and won re-election to her seat in the upper house in November.
   Also seeking the nomination are Essex County Executive James Treffinger; Douglas Forrester, a wealthy businessman and former West Windsor mayor; Robert Ray, the former independent counsel investigating the affairs of former President Bill Clinton; state Sen. John Matheussen (R-Washington Township in Gloucester County) and Assemblyman Guy Gregg (R-Washington Township in Morris County).
   As the Republican whip in the state Senate, Ms. Allen said she was able to build coalitions among disparate groups to pass solid legislation.
   Also, her efforts to revitalize the less-affluent 7th District, bringing a light rail line and promoting the return of small businesses to "towns that had their heyday 100 years ago," led to her re-election and continued support in the district, Ms. Allen said.
   Having won handily by a 3-to-1 margin in her heavily Democratic district, which comprises portions of Burlington and Camden counties, Ms. Allen said she will appeal to a cross section of New Jersey voters.
   "We have a gender gap in the Republican Party, and I am not suggesting just because I am a woman I can change that. I am suggesting a lot of issues I deal with all the time are ones women care about and I’m not going to allow those to go to a Democrat," she said. "I want to bring the women in. I want to bring the men in. I want to bring everybody in."
   Like the other candidates in the race, Ms. Allen criticized the alleged ethical lapses of Sen. Torricelli.
   The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced in December that Sen. Torricelli would not face federal charges following a lengthy investigation of fund-raising activities during his 1996 campaign. The matter was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee.
   "We need someone who will not just pay attention to us, but will not embarrass us," Ms. Allen said. "That’s a real problem for us with Mr. Torricelli. He’s someone who seems to go with what’s expedient as opposed to what’s right."
   She is a self-described "fiscal conservative," favoring more tax cuts to revive the economy.
   Ms. Allen pledged not to raise taxes in Trenton or Washington.
   "The government can do a better job by thinking smart rather than raising taxes," Ms. Allen said. She cited her efforts in the state Legislature to cut taxes 40 times and her legislation creating the New Jersey Saver Rebate and other legislation increasing the Homestead Rebate by 50 percent.
   "I believe in giving money back and let people decide how to spend it," she said.
   For the most part, Ms. Allen said, she stands by President George W. Bush. She disagrees with the president’s proposal for amnesty for illegal immigrants, however.
   Ms. Allen lauded the president’s leadership on the war against terrorism and his efforts to shore up the military.
   She criticized Sen. Torricelli for his efforts in encouraging the CIA to adopt a policy of requiring a case officer, before paying an informant who may be guilty of civil or human rights violations, to obtain a superior officer’s approval.
   "Well, you know about the Torricelli Principle, you know what he did to the CIA and why he bears some of the responsibility for what happened in this country on the 11th of September," Ms. Allen said.
   Ken Synder, a spokesman for Sen. Torricelli’s re-election campaign, said of Ms. Allen’s charge, "It’s cynical and offensive to use the very tragic events of Sept. 11 to score political points."
   On the violence rocking the Middle East, Ms. Allen supports Israel’s efforts to combat terrorism while urging both the Israelis and Palestinians, with the United States as a mediator, "to step away from the violence and sit down and discuss how we’re going to resolve the situation. We’ve been close before and I personally fault (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat for not accepting 97 percent of what he wanted (in 2000)."
   Sen. Allen supports the right of a woman to choose an abortion, although it is a choice she said she would not make for herself based on her Quaker religious beliefs.
   "And I don’t believe I should legislate my religious beliefs on anyone else," she said.
   She opposes "partial birth abortions," and supports parental notification, with the option of judicial bypass, when a minor daughter seeks an abortion.
   Ms. Allen is married, with two adult children and a grandchild.