- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The Supreme Court decided yesterday not to intervene in the New Jersey Senate race, allowing Democrats in the state to replace embattled Sen. Robert G. Torricelli with Frank R. Lautenberg in next month's election.

"This is a sad day that concludes yet another troubling chapter in the long history of embarrassment and disgrace the Torricelli-Lautenberg machine has inflicted on the people of New Jersey," said New Jersey state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, the Republican state chairman.

"We are disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision," said Mitch Bainwol, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Had the case been heard, we felt the facts were very much on our side."

Mr. Torricelli, who was admonished by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics in late July, dropped out of the Senate race Sept. 30 after polls showed him distantly trailing Republican challenger Doug Forrester.

The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously decided to allow state Democrats to replace Mr. Torricelli on the ballot with Mr. Lautenberg. Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of that decision and an emergency hearing, but the court declined yesterday, without elaborating.

Republicans argued that the New Jersey court's decision violated state law and disenfranchised overseas voters, including military voters, as almost 1,700 absentee ballots have already been mailed with Mr. Torricelli's name on them.

Another Republican appeal was dismissed yesterday by the U.S. District Court in Trenton. Republicans asked the court to force the state to mail out the rest of the absentee ballots with Mr. Torricelli's name on them, as time is dwindling for citizens overseas to be able to vote. The court dismissed the case without prejudice. On Friday, Republicans had asked the same court to prevent new ballots from being printed, but that appeal was denied as well.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is asking the Federal Election Commission to bar Mr. Torricelli from giving his remaining campaign funds to Mr. Lautenberg or to the party.

Tovah Ravitz-Meehan, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called the GOP's complaint to the FEC "laughable."

She said Mr. Torricelli is legally allowed to give his remaining campaign money back to donors, give it to other candidates in $1,000 increments, give it to any party committee or convert it to a political action committee.

Torricelli spokeswoman Debra DeShong said the campaign has about $5 million, but has outstanding bills, salaries and other commitments to pay first, and officials have not yet decided what will be done with the remainder of the money.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lautenberg, a 78-year-old former senator, had a slight lead over Mr. Forrester, 49 percent to 45 percent, in a poll released yesterday by Quinnipiac University.

The poll, conducted Wednesday through Sunday of 514 likely voters, found 54 percent say the last-minute switch of candidates by the Democrats is unfair. But only 30 percent say they cannot vote for the new Democratic candidate for that reason.

"The new Democratic candidate has turned New Jersey's Senate race into a whole new ballgame that will be decided by independent voters," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

A new poll by the Star Ledger-Eagleton Rutgers polling group is due out today.

Mr. Forrester, who had focused largely on the ethical questions surrounding Mr. Torricelli, has had to quickly retool his campaign strategy in light of his new opponent.

"All of a sudden, he's got a new campaign," said veteran New Jersey Republican analyst Steve Salmore. "Whereas Lautenberg sort of picks up the Torricelli playbook and keeps going, basically saying that Forrester's too conservative on abortion, the environment, et cetera."

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