The Times, Trenton

Cheney Stumps For Forrester

The Times of Trenton — Saturday, July 23, 2005

Staff Writer

Vice President Dick Cheney told Republican supporters last night that Doug Forrester's plans to reduce property taxes and curb government corruption send the right message to New Jersey voters.

Appearing at a party fund-raiser in Plainsboro, Cheney said the Bush administration needs partners at the state level as the president's team tackles tough issues at home and abroad.

Cheney, who was the guest speaker at a $1,000-a-head event, said he is confident Forrester will win the state's gubernatorial election in November.

"We need more people like Doug in public life," Cheney said at The Westin at Forrestal Village.

More than 200 people packed into a ballroom last night to hear Cheney's speech while another roughly 150 people from Democratic groups and activist organizations gathered outside to protest the event.

Tom Wilson, chairman of the state Republican Committee, said last night the party raised more than $300,000 from the vice president's appearance, which shut down nearby roads during rush hour.

Before he spoke to the crowd, Cheney held a roundtable meeting with some of the state's top Republican leaders and posed for pictures with high-level donors.

As Forrester introduced the vice president, he reiterated his message that U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., his Democratic opponent, will not help state residents by controlling spending or slashing corruption.

"The vice president and I are negotiating a little disagreement," Forrester joked in his opening remarks.

"The disagreement is that he wants to get Jon Corzine out of Washington because of all the trouble that he is causing. And I, of course, want to keep Jon Corzine out of New Jersey. We can't afford him."

Cheney said Forrester would be able to work with people of both parties and stressed that the New Jersey race has a national spotlight.

"There are just two governors races in the country this year," he said, "and a lot of people are going to be watching to see what happens right here in New Jersey."

Cheney talked extensively about the administration's efforts to deal with terrorism, referring to the recent bombings in London and the continued threat posed against the United States.

"Our only option against these enemies is to find them, to fight them and to defeat them," Cheney said.

Touting the administration's efforts to privatize Social Security, the vice president said it was important to build a strong nation based on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility.

"The time has come to join together to save Social Security for our children and our grandchildren," he said.

The vice president's last appearance in New Jersey was in April when he stopped in Burlington County to promote the administration's Social Security plan.

New Jersey Citizen Action, a grass-roots group that protested his April visit, came out again yesterday to continue to voice objections over the controversial proposal.

"We want to let people know there are a lot of upset voters in the state of New Jersey," said Marilyn Carpinteyro, one of the group's organizers.

Chanting "Cheney go home and take Doug with you," roughly 150 people from that group and others gathered outside the hotel last night to protest Cheney's visit.

Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, a strong Corzine supporter, said he felt it was important to join the protest in his hometown to show his distaste for Bush administration policies.

"As mayor of the community," he said, "I certainly respect the office of the vice president, but that is where it ends for me."

Gabe Mintier of Hightstown said he kept an open mind about voting for Forrester until he saw the Cheney event.

"If he's going to align himself with the Bush administration, that says enough for me," Mintier said.

Over the past week, Democrats have argued that the Cheney visit shows Forrester is tied to Bush policies that are harmful to the state and unpopular with voters.

In response, Forrester has noted that he doesn't support all of Bush's policies but sees nothing wrong with taking cash from a Cheney event, given Corzine's donations to Democratic political bosses.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., came to the State House yesterday to decry Cheney's visit, citing another recent appearance by Bush adviser Karl Rove.

Lautenberg, who defeated Forrester in the 2002 U.S. Senate campaign, said candidates are judged "by the company they keep." He called Rove and Cheney "radical conservatives."

"I don't think you take any money from Dick Cheney," Lautenberg said. "I don't think you take any money from Karl Rove."

David Rebovich, a Rider University political scientist, said Cheney's visit will help unify Republicans after a fractious primary campaign.

Rebovich also said the visit could hurt Forrester among independent voters, noting that Forrester has seemingly tried to blunt that problem by vowing not to support all Bush policies.

"Forrester still has quite a bit of work to do to describe his brand of Republicanism," he said, "and how it applies to the perennial problems in New Jersey."

Staff writer Tom Hester Jr. contributed to this report.

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