Diane Allen, a onetime Philadelphia news anchor who served as a senator in New Jersey’s legislature for two decades, will be Republican Jack Ciattarelli’s running mate as he seeks to become governor this fall.
A longtime advocate for pay equity, Allen is widely respected in New Jersey political circles for her history of working with members of both parties. Her name recognition will likely be a boost for Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman who is less well-known statewide.
A spokesperson for Ciattarelli confirmed Monday that Allen would be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. A formal announcement is planned for Wednesday.
Ciattarelli, a 59-year-old Somerset County businessman, is campaigning on a pledge to lower taxes and on criticism of Gov. Phil Murphy’s pandemic response.
But Murphy’s popularity has grown thanks to broad approval of his pandemic response, and he is widely seen as the early favorite to win reelection. Registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the state by a million, an advantage that has grown since New Jersey last elected a GOP governor, Chris Christie, in 2013.
If Murphy is reelected, he would be the state’s first Democratic governor since 1977 to win a second term.
Allen, 73, represented a Democratic-leaning district in Burlington County from 1998 until her retirement in 2018. A former television and radio anchor in Philadelphia, she was a championship hang-glider in the 1970s. She was known in Trenton as fiscally conservative but moderate on social issues, and as a champion of pay equity for women. In 2018, Murphy signed landmark legislation bearing her name: the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which protects against employment discrimination.
A June poll found Ciattarelli struggling with low name recognition among the state’s voters.
But Allen is well-known. Her career began in the early 1970s with her campaign for the Moorestown school board. She also ran for U.S. Senate in 2002, though she failed to win the Republican nomination.
Allen broke with her party several times while serving in the state legislature — in 2012, she was one of two Republicans to vote for legalizing same-sex marriage — and at times she clashed with GOP leaders, including Christie.
After leaving the Senate, she launched a political action committee aimed at electing more women to public office. “I truly believe until our legislature reflects the people we represent, we don’t have a true democracy,” she told The Inquirer at the time.
After she announced in 2017 that she would not seek reelection, citing medical concerns, she lamented in an interview that her willingness to work with her Democratic colleagues made her “one of a dying breed.”
“When I first got into [politics], there seemed to be more camaraderie across the aisle than there is now,” she said. “People spent more time together. They’d have lunch together. They don’t do that now.”
Of then-President Donald Trump, she said that he made “heads explode on both sides” of the aisle, and that some Democrats were trying to undermine his presidency.
“There are things he does that drive me crazy,” she said. “Could someone take his phone away from him at night, please? But I understand half the people in this country voted for significant change. And they’re getting it.”
“I also understand the other half are angry, and can’t accept it,” she added. “There’s a left-wing anger thing; I don’t think I could be part of a right-wing anger thing.”