- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

JERSEY CITY, N.J Embattled Sen. Robert G. Torricelli is in the political fight of his life as he seeks to keep his Senate seat in a tight race.
Opening a week of somber remembrance, Mr. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, participated in a memorial parade in Jersey City this weekend honoring the city's victims and heroes of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"September 11 is a hole in our hearts," Mr. Torricelli told a crowd of Jersey City firefighters, police officers, rescue workers and residents in a ceremony following the parade Saturday. "To every emergency worker there will never be words to thank you enough."
Mr. Torricelli's lead in the Senate race vanished after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics admonished him in late July for accepting expensive gifts from businessman David Chang in exchange for favors. He is running neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Doug Forrester, businessman and former mayor of West Windsor, according to a Democratic poll the Torricelli camp commissioned in mid-August. Other polls indicate Mr. Forrester is up by 11 or more percentage points.
Most of those in the crowd Saturday were blue-collar Democrats who support Mr. Torricelli despite his recent troubles.
"He did make a mistake, but I think as a Democrat, he's done a lot, as far as bringing things to this area," said Frank Lorenzo of Jersey City, who walked in the parade as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. "We need him [in Washington]."
There were some, however, who were not so forgiving. "I think he is a criminal," Jersey City resident Juliann Barbato said as she watched the festivities. "His position is for his own betterment."
Miss Barbato said although she had voted for him in the last election, she "will surely vote for his opponent" come November.
"People would prefer not to vote for Torricelli," said political analyst Cliff Zukin. As a result, Mr. Zukin said Mr. Torricelli has to "make the opponent look unattractive" to voters.
Mr. Torricelli worked hard to do that during his first televised debate with Mr. Forrester Thursday night in Edison, by trying to characterize Mr. Forrester as too conservative for New Jersey on issues such as abortion, gun control, prescription drugs and the environment.
Mr. Forrester, in contrast, stressed Mr. Torricelli's ethics problems and tried to paint him as an ineffective senator.
"Bob Torricelli has not been an effective senator," Mr. Forrester said. "He has not put New Jersey first; he has put himself first."
Mr. Torricelli apologized for his ethics admonishment.
"I made a mistake," he said. "I had an obligation to know the Senate rules and in three specific instances I made an error in judgment."
But Mr. Forrester said Mr. Torricelli was downplaying the severity of his ethical missteps.
"He's talking about things that were 'momentary' and 'unintentional' whereas the Senate Ethics Committee said deliberate, over a period of years," Mr. Forrester said. "Those are serious matters. Mr. Torricelli is a repeat offender New Jersey deserves better."
Mr. Torricelli said people should look at the "totality" of what he has done for the state. He took credit for cleaning up the water off the Jersey shoreline, cleaning up polluted sites and ensuring that parents can deduct part of their child's college tuition from income taxes.
He criticized Mr. Forrester for failing to support the Senate Democrats' proposal for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, which he said would provide the best drug coverage to seniors. The proposal and three alternative prescription drug plans failed to pass the Senate.
Mr. Forrester said he would support a combination of the bills that have been proposed and blamed Senate Democrats for failing to come through with a plan.
"They had an opportunity to pass a plan, they're in the majority; we didn't get a plan," Mr. Forrester said. "When I'm United States senator from New Jersey, we'll have a plan."
Mr. Forrester also criticized Mr. Torricelli for an incident in which the New Jersey Democrat made $50,000 by investing in a company that was later found to be involved in a stock swindle.
"There is just something inappropriate about that for a United States senator," Mr. Forrester said, adding that Mr. Torricelli should give the money back.
Mr. Torricelli said the investment was made as part of a blind trust.
"The trade that you're talking about that was made, I didn't know about," he said. "This was done privately; it was done professionally by a brokerage firm."

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