- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

Republican officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to stop New Jersey Democrats from replacing embattled Sen. Robert G. Torricelli with Frank R. Lautenberg on the ballot in next month's election.
The New Jersey state Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that Democrats could replace Mr. Torricelli even though the state deadline for changing ballots had passed.
"What the Democrats have done is legally and ethically intolerable," said Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who hand-delivered the appeal to the high court yesterday. "They have corrupted the election system in New Jersey and are attempting to steal an election they could not otherwise win. We will not stand by while they break the law in an undisguised grab for power they feel slipping away."
Mr. Torricelli, who had been plagued by accusations of questionable ethical behavior, dropped out of the Senate race Monday after polls showed him lagging behind his Republican challenger, Doug Forrester.
The Republican appeal, filed on behalf of the New Jersey Republican Party, asks for an emergency hearing before the high court and an immediate stay of the New Jersey decision.
The court asked the New Jersey Democratic Party last night to respond in writing to the Republican legal filing, an indication that the justices find at least some merit in the case.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, compared the Republican appeal to the 2000 Supreme Court decision that decided the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Mr. Daschle said he cannot understand "why they would want to revisit the Florida experience. I just think that the situation there was one that I hope we never have to repeat."
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, called that comparison "hilarious." He said Republicans simply "don't think [Democrats] should try to change the rules of the game at the end of the game."
The Republican appeal to the high court argues that the New Jersey decision violates the Constitution's requirement that state legislatures not courts determine the "times, places and manner of holding congressional elections."
"The New Jersey Supreme Court overstepped its authority by usurping the will of the Legislature," said Alex Vogel, general counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Former Republican Gov. Christie Whitman, who appointed six of the seven New Jersey justices during her term, repudiated their actions yesterday, saying, "This shows that even very bright people can make serious mistakes."
"This really fuels the cynicism people have about our electoral system, and it's a shame," said Mrs. Whitman, who now heads the Environmental Protection Agency.
New Jersey law says a statewide candidate can drop out 51 days or more before the election. Mr. Torricelli quit the race with 36 days left.
The Republican appeal also contends that amending the ballots this late in the game violates the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and could disenfranchise overseas voters, including military personnel who already have cast their ballots.
California's secretary of state plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief on the issue today, said Beth Miller, a spokeswoman for Republican Bill Jones.
He is "very concerned about the potential precedent it could set in terms of federal elections in California," she said.
Mr. Torricelli and Mr. Lautenberg had a sour relationship and feuded openly with each other when they served together in the Senate.
But Ken Snyder, Mr. Torricelli's former campaign manager, said Mr. Torricelli supports his former colleague.
"We're proud that he's going to represent our party," Mr. Snyder said. "The party and ideas and vision they fight for are more important and supersede any disagreements they may have had in the past, or may have in the future."
Mr. Snyder said Mr. Torricelli has raised $5.5 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and more than $2 million for New Jersey's Democratic Party, and hopes the money will go to help Mr. Lautenberg.
Some of Mr. Torricelli's own campaign funds could go to Mr. Lautenberg, but Mr. Snyder said the Torricelli campaign has a lot of obligations and it is "going to take a while" to determine what to do with the money.
This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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