Press of Atlantic City

Cheney, In Ocean County, Spreads Bush Message

Press of Atlantic City — Wednesday, March 23, 2004

Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP — On one side of the street stood a line of protesters, shouting anti-Bush administration chants and holding up signs to passing motorists.

On the other side, beyond busy Route 9, hundreds of men and women in business attire streamed into a spacious restaurant ballroom Monday evening to express support for Vice President Dick Cheney at a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser.

In a wide-ranging speech that touched on topics including national security and tort reform, Cheney highlighted what he said were the successes of the Bush administration in fighting terrorism and improving the nation's economy.

He also turned his fire on U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the expected Democratic presidential nominee, excoriating the Massachusetts lawmaker for a series of votes on weapon systems, taxes and military spending.

The fund-raiser, held inside the Chateau Grand, brought together prominent local Republicans with some who said they were attending their first campaign fund-raiser.

Ralph Aporte, 41, of Jackson, was among those attending their first event. He said he came because he wanted to "hear the message" rather than the sound bytes he said were offered on television.

Ziv Jacob, originally from Haifa, Israel, said his employer MEC Technology Inc., bought a full table at the fund-raiser. Although Jacob said he is a Republican, he noted that he probably would not have come if forced to pay his own way.

"One thousand dollars is too much for a regular person," said Jacob, 47, director of manufacturing technology for the company.

With the election eight months away, some said it was especially important to get behind the Bush administration now.

"The most important thing is supporting the Republican Party, (and), in this particular case, making sure that Bush and Cheney get re-elected," said Doug Fuhrman, 54, of Toms River, Ocean County.

"This is the year when we expect New Jersey to return (its) electoral votes to a Republican president and vice president," said Elias Abilheira, 38, a defense attorney and deputy mayor of Millstone Township, Monmouth County, who pronounced himself a "die-hard Republican."

Beneath glowing chandeliers was a large spread of food, including pasta, fruit, cheese and crackers. At one point, loudspeakers blared Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Former Gov. Christie Whitman, who resigned last year as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, introduced Cheney and his wife, Lynne. The couple took the stage to bursts of applause and cheers.

In introducing her husband, Lynne Cheney said President Bush has been a "truly magnificent leader in times of challenge. And I'd like to add: The vice president is no slouch either."

Cheney criticized Kerry for voting for "higher taxes" and for failing to support the $87 billion appropriation that Bush requested of Congress for military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He voted 350 times in the U.S. Senate for higher taxes. For the sake of growth and long-term job creation, we need to do exactly the opposite from Senator Kerry's proposal. We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent," he said.

Cheney argued that the Bush administration's strategy in attacking terrorism was more efficient than that of previous governments.

"For many years prior to 9-11, we treated terror attacks against Americans as isolated incidents," Cheney said, vowing that the Bush administration would "fight and win a global campaign against the (terror) network."

He added that the Bush administration would "never seek a permission slip to defend" the nation's security.

Indeed, 21/2 years removed from Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks still seemed to weigh heavy on the minds of some Republicans in attendance.

"I think everybody should try to think back to Sept. 11 and how it felt the day after," said Doug Clayton, 53, of Cookstown, Burlington County

Monmouth County Sheriff Joseph Oxley recited the toll the attacks took on his community. He noted that the victims included 127 people from his county, 33 from his native Middletown Township and 28 from his parish.

"So do I feel strongly about terrorism and national defense? Absolutely. Twenty-eight people in my parish are gone," Oxley, 45, said.

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