- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester last night lumped his opponent Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg with the scandal-plagued Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, as representing "the failed policies of the past."

"I reflect new leadership for New Jersey," Mr. Forrester said in his opening remarks during last night's first and only debate in the New Jersey Senate race.

He described that new leadership as backing stronger national defense, stronger intelligence-gathering and lower taxes issues his campaign ads have touched on in recent days.

"Bob Torricelli is already out of the race; perhaps he didn't know that," shot back Mr. Lautenberg, who described Mr. Forrester as too conservative for New Jersey on such issues as abortion and gun control. "Doug Forrester is just wrong for New Jersey."

Mr. Lautenberg, a 78-year-old former senator, entered the race early this month after Mr. Torricelli dropped out under an ethical cloud and collapsing poll numbers. The New Jersey Supreme Court approved a last-minute ballot switch over bitter Republican objections.

Entering last night's debate, polls showed Mr. Lautenberg ahead of Mr. Forrester. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted Oct. 19-24 found Mr. Lautenberg at 48 percent and Mr. Forrester at 36 percent. The New York Times has endorsed Mr. Lautenberg.

Republicans said last night's debate was long overdue and accused Mr. Lautenberg of avoiding a formal debate and trying to sit on that poll lead.

"I think Lautenberg's continuing to duck debates is very important," said Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "This is the first and maybe only forum where people can see where he stands on the issues."

The NRSC recently began running an ad in which Mr. Lautenberg is accused of "shamelessly ducking" debates because he is afraid of his poor record.

Democrats have dismissed the accusations.

"He's a three-term senator with a commanding lead in most public opinion polls. Why would he be afraid of Doug Forrester?" said longtime New Jersey Democratic political analyst Rick Thigpen.

Mr. Thigpen added that Republicans have "failed to do anything but talk about Lautenberg being no good and they have failed to connect with the voters in any way."

The first hour of the debate also included four other minor candidates who are running for the Senate: Ted Glick of the Green Party, Elizabeth Macron of the Libertarian Party, Gregory Pason of the Socialist Party and Norman Wahner of the New Jersey Conservative Party.

New Jersey GOP political analyst Roger Bodman said that the debate would only be broadcast in northern New Jersey, and that having all six candidates would "water down the exchange."

He called the format another part of Mr. Lautenberg's "strategy to avoid any public debates" and run "basically a hide-and-seek campaign."

Through the short campaign, Mr. Lautenberg has been saying Mr. Forrester is too conservative for the state, while the Forrester camp has been arguing that Mr. Lautenberg has an "indefensible" record on national-security issues.

The Forrester campaign started a new television ad Tuesday questioning why Mr. Lautenberg opposed missile defense, opposed military action against Iraq in 1991, opposed the death penalty for terrorists who kill Americans and favored cutting the defense budget.

"We may never know why," the ad states. "But with all that's on the line, why would we ever give Lautenberg the chance to do it again?"

Mr. Lautenberg's campaign shot back with an ad defending his stance against terrorism pointing to his advocacy on behalf of those who lost loved ones in the 1988 bombing of a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The ad features a family member of one victim, who says Mr. Lautenberg was "our strongest advocate from the beginning when others did not realize the danger to our country."

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