Skip to comments.Ex-Senator (Lautenberg) to Replace Torricelli
Posted on 10/01/2002 6:03:54 PM PDT by eddie willers
By JOHN P. McALPIN, Associated Press Writer
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Desperate to keep their single-seat majority in the Senate, Democrats have chosen former Sen. Frank Lautenberg to replace scandal-tainted Sen. Robert Torricelli ( news, bio, voting record) on the November ballot, The Associated Press has learned.
The decision was reached Tuesday evening after a full day of meetings among top state Democrats, according to a party source familiar with the discussions.
An announcement was expected later Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the 78-year-old Lautenberg indicated he was ready to run.
"I was there (in the Senate) 18 years, and I enjoyed virtually every day," Lautenberg said in a telephone interview from his car as he headed to the governor's mansion for meetings with top state Democrats. "I didn't like raising the money, but I'm not going to mind it as much this time, because it's kind of fresh start."
Whether Lautenberg's name will actually appear the ballot with Republican Douglas Forrester will be decided in court. Republicans say it is too late to replace Torricelli, who dropped out Monday as his poll numbers continued to fall amid questions about his ethics.
The New Jersey Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case Wednesday.
Sen. William Frist, chairman of the Senate GOP campaign committee, said Republicans would consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court ( news - web sites) if the New Jersey court rules in favor of the Democrats.
"This is a desperate grasp at getting around the law and the people of New Jersey are tired of having their leaders go around the law," he said.
Frist said some absentee ballots have already been cast and that other ballots have been distributed to military personnel overseas; the New Jersey Association of County Clerks said about 1,600 absentee ballots were mailed out.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said that by objecting to Torricelli's request, Republicans were "denying the people of New Jersey a choice" in the election.
Five months ago, Torricelli's Senate seat was considered relatively safe. But support plummeted after he was admonished by the Senate ethics committee for his relationship with a 1996 campaign supporter, and he soon became the most vulnerable incumbent in the country.
Few, however, expected a court fight five weeks before Election Day.
"This is one for the books," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "It will long be remembered."
Under New Jersey law, a party can replace a statewide nominee on the ballot if the person drops out at least 51 days before the election. Torricelli missed the deadline by 15 days.
However, Democrats say decades of state court decisions put voters' rights above filing deadlines and other technical guidelines.
Attorney General David Samson argued in papers filed with the court Tuesday that the justices have the power to relax the deadline to withdraw and allow Democrats to post another candidate. Samson, who was appointed to his job by Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey, said election laws have long been interpreted liberally to allow voters every opportunity.
Legal experts agreed.
"In a substantial number of those cases, the courts have ruled on the side of being inclusive," said Richard Perr, an election law professor at Rutgers University Law School.
Six of the seven justices on the state's highest court were appointed by a former Republican governor.
Lautenberg's selection as the potential Democratic savior is replete with irony. He and Torricelli feuded openly while serving together.
"I'm not in a gloating mode," Lautenberg said. "I don't want to be smug about this. It was unfortunate for him and an unfortunate thing for all of us."
Lautenberg is a supporter of abortion rights and staunch opponent of the death penalty. He brings two major strengths to the difficult bid: statewide name recognition and a huge reserve of personal wealth he can use in the campaign. Also, unlike the House members who were also considered as substitute candidates, he does not have anything to lose by running and losing.
Lautenberg was a business executive before serving three terms in the Senate, deciding against a re-election bid in 2000. He counted among his accomplishments a law requiring companies to disclose chemicals they release into the environment, a law banning smoking on domestic flights and a law banning gun ownership by those convicted of domestic violence.
"In a substantial number of those cases, the courts have ruled on the side of being inclusive," said Richard Perr, an election law professor at Rutgers University Law School.So why do we even have rules?
Honestly, I think the best that they can hope for is for the Republicans to take it to the US Supreme Court to be knocked down so they can squeeze a little PR about right-wing court and disenfranchising ad nauseum.
Wadaya bet they not only rule that Lautenberg can run, but that he would also win and therefore there is no need for an election --- just swear him in.
Yeah....that pissed me off too.
To keep the republicans from winning.
Poster boy for the bullet box after the ballot box has failed. I have little faith in the NJSC since two are big Torch/dem supporters.