- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

NEW YORK If you want to get a cold stare, or worse, from Sen. Robert G. Torricelli these days, just mention the name David Chang.
A TV newsman from WNBC tried that too many times last week and the New Jersey Democrat grabbed the microphone and shoved it at the reporter.
Mr. Chang, now in jail for illegal campaign contributions, was at the center of a three-year federal investigation into Mr. Torricelli's fund-raising practices, specifically whether he had dispensed favors in return for cash and expensive gifts.
Although cleared by the FBI, the resilient senator awaits the findings of a Senate Ethics Committee, a decision that could tip the balance in the close election.
In Mr. Torricelli's race against Douglas R. Forrester, character and ethics have become so important that both candidates came roaring out of the gate last week accusing each other of moral lapses.
"It doesn't seem that either of these guys is going to wait until Labor Day for heavy-duty campaigning," said David Rebovich of the Rider Institute for New Jersey Politics. "Each one doesn't want the other guy to define him."
Mr. Forrester, 49, a reserved Harvard man with a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, has called his rival "an embarrassment" and has hammered away at the questions raised by the FBI probe of the senator's affairs.
The wealthy Mr. Forrester remains politically untested. Against Mr. Torricelli's six years in the U.S. Senate and 14 years in the House, Mr. Forrester has held office only once, 20 years ago as mayor of West Windsor in Mercer County.
Nevertheless, after his victory in Tuesday's Republican primary, he challenged the senator to a series of six 60-minute debates.
The cloud over the senator hangs so heavily that New Jersey's retired Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who had a rocky relationship with his former colleague, went on television to offer some advice on how to clear up the ethical questions: Take a lie-detector test.
Mr. Torricelli, 50, immediately went for the jugular in the first official hours of the campaign.
After remaining out of the public eye in recent weeks except for a fund-raiser attended by former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Torricelli charged Mr. Forrester, owner of a company that manages pharmacy benefits for institutions, with making his fortune by driving up the cost of health care.
"It is obscene there is something wrong when a man can earn over $50 million in 10 years selling prescription drugs as a middleman," Mr. Torricelli said at a rally last week.
A poll conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee shows Mr. Torricelli with a five-point lead over Mr. Forrester, at 44 percent to 39 percent. Half of those polled said they would prefer a new senator.
But Mr. Rebovich doubts that such sentiments will be enough.
"It will really be tough to unseat Torricelli," Mr. Rebovich said. "New Jerseyans have become reconciled to his legal problems. It's a rough-and-tumble state, and voters may think it's just more of the same."
New Jersey has become increasingly Democratic in recent years Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate race since 1972 and Mr. Torricelli is hoping to make party control of the Senate a central issue of his campaign.
The day before the Democratic primary in which he ran unopposed, he made his point by meeting the press in front of the State House with Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, the legislator who gave the Democrats a one-vote majority in the Senate when he quit the Republican Party and became an independent.
Mr. Forrester already has spent more than $3 million on his campaign and says he will "put my money where my mouth is," causing some to compare him with Democrat Jon S. Corzine, who spent a record $70 million in New Jersey on his Senate bid.
"Forrester has to demonstrate that Torricelli is nothing more than a big-spending liberal who in 20 years in Congress allowed the federal government to increase its tax burden on New Jersey families," said Murray Sabrin, a Ramapo College finance professor who ran as a Republican for governor in 2000.
Mr. Torricelli, he said, must convince the people in New Jersey that he is the champion of working-class families and that his experience and seniority have earned him their votes.
Using mailing lists from his old campaign, Mr. Sabrin is introducing a computerized "Torricelli Indictment Watch," reminding his followers by e-mail that "another week has gone by in which Bob Torricelli was not indicted."

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