- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Frank R. Lautenberg, the Democratic Party's replacement for scandal-ridden Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, defeated Republican Douglas Forrester last night for the New Jersey U.S. Senate seat.

Mr. Lautenberg received 54 percent of the vote, and Mr. Forester 44 percent. Voter turnout was light to moderate throughout the state, with 97 percent of the precincts reporting.

"I didn't have to be coaxed or dragged to run," Mr. Lautenberg said in a victory speech to his enthusiastic supporters. "I couldn't wait to get back to the Senate, as a matter of fact."

Democrats viewed the race from the start as pivotal in their battle to hold their slim majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans had hoped to pick up a seat in their efforts to regain control of the chamber. Republican Party state Chairman Joseph Kyrillos said that efforts to get out the vote were "unprecedented."

Mr. Lautenberg came out of the gate as the favorite, leading in virtually all the polls since early October. The campaign attracted national attention when Mr. Torricelli renounced his candidacy on Sept. 30 amid accusations of campaign corruption, and Democrats succeeded in replacing him on the ballot with Mr. Lautenberg.

Mr. Lautenberg rated especially high with women voters.

Democratic political analyst Rick Thigpen said Mr. Lautenberg won because he got a big turnout from the Democratic base and from independents.

"I think urban turnout was on par with suburban turnout, which was a big plus for Democrats," Mr. Thigpen said. He said many minorities turned out to vote for Mr. Lautenberg, as did many Jewish voters.

State Republican leaders cast the choice of Mr. Lautenberg, 78, as a desperate move from a party tainted by scandal, seeking to portray the former three-term senator as a voice from the past.

Mr. Forrester, 49, wanted to be the first Republican elected to the Senate from New Jersey in 30 years.

In a 15-minute concession speech, Mr. Forrester, who spent $8 million of his own fortune on the race, referred to the exit of Mr. Torricelli and the entry of Mr. Lautenberg five weeks before the election. He said his campaign staff had been asked "to change right at the end, right at the point where it seemed everything had come together for victory and create a whole new campaign."

Mr. Lautenberg, a self-made millionaire who grew up in Paterson, decided not to seek a fourth term in 2000, saying he no longer relished the arm-twisting required for fund raising. During the campaign, he emphasized traditional bread-and-butter Democratic issues, such as protecting Social Security, improving education and enacting tougher gun-control laws.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Forrester sought to link the disgraced Mr. Torricelli with Mr. Lautenberg, arguing that their Senate voting records demonstrated both men stood for higher taxes and a weaker military. Mr. Lautenberg dismissed the comparison as did most of the media because it was well known that the two Democrats regarded each other unfavorably and were barely on speaking terms.

Democrats hold the edge in the state with more than 1.5 million registered voters. There are about 900,000 registered Republicans, and more than 2.5 million voters remain unaffiliated.

Amy Fagan contributed to this report.

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