State Senate candidate Richard Dennison has taken the fight to Diane Allen quite a few times. In fact, by Dennison’s own count, today was the fourth time that he has held a press conference in front of Allen’s Burlington legislative office.
“I’m choosing here because it’s symbolic that I’m taking this race to her, that I’m not intimidated by her in the least,” said Dennison.
Today, the lawyer/undertaker returned to his favorite campaign spot to attack Allen on the issue he said was most near and dear to him: property tax relief. Why, he asked, did Sen. Allen vote in favor of the establishment of homestead tax credits — which devoted the recent one cent sales tax increase to property tax relief – only to vote against the state budget that ultimately funded it?
“Diane Allen made an obligation to provide million of dollars in property tax relief to homeowners, but refused to put the money in the bank to fund the relief checks,” said Dennison. “It’s a cruel hoax to property tax payers in this state.”
Dennison, who turned 30 last week, is running an energetic, if long-shot campaign in the Seventh District. And at first glance, the numbers are on his side. Registered Democrats in that district outnumber Republicans nearly two to one, and Kerry got 13,000 more votes there than Bush.
Dennison’s running mates, five-term Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Jack Connors, face a potentially competitive re-election contest against two GOP challengers: former Philadelphia Flyers hockey player Brian Propp and attorney Nancy Whatley-Griffin.
But Allen, who was elected to the Senate in 1997 after two years in the Assembly, has a reputation as a moderate Republican, despite her support for President Bush and her role as an elector at the 2000 and 2004 Republican National Conventions. Allen’s years as a Philadelphia TV anchorwoman has made her a recognizable face in the district. She has never had much difficulty winning elections.
To date, much of Dennison’s campaign has focused on tying Allen to a President whose New Jersey approval rating one poll put at 18 percent, a strategy that has drawn criticism from Allen’s camp as not being well-informed on local issues. Today Dennison sought to demonstrate command of those issues by focusing on tax relief – an issue he said he became painfully familiar with after his tax bill for his condo came to over $8,000.
He went on to blast Allen for what he said was a hypocritical stance in voting "Yea" on the 1999 Structured Financing Act that intended to lease some state assets to private entities – although that bill only allowed for the leasing of assets that “have no value to a government entity.”
Dennison said that while he would oppose any plan to sell or lease the Turnpike – which he said would be “dead on arrival” if he was in the state Senate — he considered passing a budget with property tax relief a more pressing priority.
Still, Dennison couldn’t help but include some jabs at Allen for her past support of President Bush and what he said were her attempts to duck it. Allen was an early supporter of Bush’s first national campaign seven years ago.
“Our leaders have to show us their true beliefs,” said Dennison, who held up an Allen campaign flyer. “I’ll pay you a million dollars if you can find the word ‘Republican’ anywhere on this thing.” He compared it to his own flyer, with the word “Democrat” prominently displayed.
Allen said that she voted for homestead credits only after meeting with Gov. Corzine to ask him to include provisions for senior citizens that never materialized. But once it came time to vote for the budget, she couldn’t look past what she saw as a deeply flawed bill. Chief among those problems was that ever-present Republican campaign issue of asset monetization.
“If all that bill did was fund [property tax relief], that would be one thing. But the bill did eight million different things, and some of them were repugnant” said Allen. She went on to dispute Dennison’s charge that she has too aligned with national Republican policies, saying that she has opposed him on several issues like social security reform and cuts in children’s health programs.
"My constituents know that I'm an independent leader in the Senate who fights for their interests alone,” said Allen.