In front of towering silos at the Burlington County Agricultural Center with John Cougar Mellencamp’s iconic song, “Jack and Diane,” blaring in the background, GOP nominee for governor Jack Ciattarelli and his running mate, former state Senator Diane Allen, took the stage this morning for the first time.
Unveiled as a fiscal conservative with battleground-tested pro-choice social credentials, Allen immediately set about excoriating incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, reassembling the worst components of his record on taxes – and particularly on women – to make her case to rid the state of him.
“New Jersey is the worst state in the nation to get help from your own state,” said Allen. “Fix the darn system, for heaven’s sake. We don’t want you to feel like you’re stuck in New Jersey. We want you to feel like you’re happy to live in New Jersey.
“We are going to cut taxes,” Allen added.
A year ago, the former state senator from Burlington County assumed a role in the Ciattarelli Campaign as the point person for sexual harassment complaints.
“No one has contacted me with a single problem,” said Allen.
That’s a sharp contrast with Murphy, she argued.
“On the  Murphy campaign, there were people trying to contact him,” she said.
Then there was the soccer team that Murphy owns.
They received bad treatment.
“All the women in his orbit are put aside and thought of as less than the men,” Allen said. “If you think women are equals, what are you doing?”
Then there was the scandal at the Edna Mahan Women’s Correctional Facility (where the Republican running mates will appear this afternoon for a second campaign event).
He was slow to act.
“Until he’s going to get blowback on his own personal face he waits, waits, waits,” said Allen. “We can’t have that. When you see something that’s wrong you need to act and you need to act quickly.”
In his own remarks after the candidates received a buildup from Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield, Ciattarelli pointedly complained about how his opponent routinely sides with men at the expense of women.
He also doubled down on his problems with Murphy on taxes.
“He says if taxes are not your issue we’re probably not your state. Taxes are our issue. Let’s send him back to Massachusetts.”
Formally joining the ticket today in support of Ciattarelli, Allen presented herself as someone who refused to kowtow to powerful political interests.
“They told me I didn’t know how to play the game,” she said. “I still don’t know how to do that.”
From afar, Murphy’s allies jeered at Ciattarelli, as Phil Swibinski, a campaign spokesman, wanted to know: “Does Senator Allen think she and Assemblyman Ciattarelli were right in opposing funding for essential women’s health services, which they did multiple times under Chris Christie?”