One of the best candidate recruitments for Assembly Republicans was in the seventh district, where former Philadelphia Flyers All-Star Brian Propp is challenging incumbents Herbert Conaway and Jack Conners. The Burlington-Camden district leans strongly to the Democratic side, but another celebrity candidate, former TV news anchorwoman Diane Allen, has won four elections there as a Republican by relatively comfortable margins. Republicans believed that Allen’s coattails — a spring GOP poll had her re-elect at a solid 55% — could help Propp win.
But Propp may be the victim of limited GOP resources. One year after Democrats won the Burlington County Surrogate race, the Republicans are on the defensive: their main goal is hold their two Freeholder seats and re-elect Sheriff Jean Stanfield. And a party switch has made the normally Republican eighth district a little more competitive — Assemblyman Francis Bodine, a Republican elected official for the last thirty years, switched parties earlier this year (after the GOP dumped him) and is now running for an open State Senate seat against County Clerk Phil Haines. That has also put the two open Assembly seats in play.
As a result, the county GOP organization — where former GOP County Chairman Glenn Paulsen effectively dumped successor Mike Warner in June and replaced him with lobbyist Bill Layton — has pulled out of the seventh district. That leaves Allen as the principal fundraiser for her ticket; while she probably handle her Democratic challenger, undertaker/lawyer Richard Dennsion, she might not be able to raise enough to help Propp and his running mate, Willingboro attorney Nancy Whatley-Griffin. Assembly Republicans have not commited money to the seventh.
While Propp has considerable contacts from his sports, broadcasting and business careers — and has had enormous success raising money for charitable causes — insiders say he’s not finding it easy to raise money for his own campaign. And both parties say that hockey players just are not as well known as someone who may have played for the Phillies, the Eagles, or the 76ers.
Connors and Conaway are hardly safe — polls had Conners’ re-elect number in the low 30’s and Conaway in the high 20’s, sources say — but they have the fundraising support of Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts and the South Jersey Democrats. And Allen, despite her popularity, has never really had coattails: she won a third term in the Senate in 2003 by 9,010 votes, but Stanfield, the incumbent Sheriff running for the Assembly, ran 1,459 behind Conners.