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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | October 01, 2002

NJ: Elections and lawyers

Remember the good ol' days when voters decided elections? Sigh. Good times... Good times. Now, the legal brief has become a seemingly integral part of a successful run for office.

The Democrats will be asking the NJ Supreme Judicial Court to block the printing of ballots with Toricelli's name, and allow the state Democratic Party to name a successor. The GOP plans to oppose the move vigorously:

To Republicans, the case is about playing by the rules. [Ha ha! - kos]

"Now, at this last minute, they decide because it looks like they can't win to change their candidate. You don't change the rules because you have a losing player."

Seems like a reasonable argument, right? You might not agree with it, but it's not crazy talk. Or is it?
The New Jersey Supreme Court allowed the Republicans who then controlled Trenton to reschedule the primary election so that acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco -- plagued by questions about his ethics -- could drop out of the race and allow Rep. Robert Franks to take his place.
So it seems, once again, that Republicans have two sets of rulebooks -- one that applies to them, and the other to everyone else.

Primary election dates are set by law. The SJC allowed a date change to serve the best interests of NJ voters. The GOP have just given the Dems all the precedent the SJC needs to allow the Democrats the same option.

Ridgewood lawyer John Carbone, an expert in New Jersey election law and counsel to the 21 county clerks, predicted that, once again, the state's courts will conclude "voters must be offered a choice."

Carbone said the courts may not be happy with the Democrats and might order them to pay the cost of reprinting ballots. But in the end, "they will not allow this to be a coronation without challenge."

Once again, if the Dems lose in court, they can still get Toricelli to resign, appoint a successor, and call a special election within a few months to resolve the whole mess. Either way, the Democrats are in pretty good shape, and regardless of the outcome, are working within the state's legal framework to arrive at a solution. The Republicans used extra-legal measures to steal a presidential election, they need to stop whining about Toricelli and "get over it". They've just been outmaneuvered.

Update: Just got Charlie Cook's newsletter, and he writes:

Clearly, Democrats will have to scramble both politically and legally to head off any court challenges Republicans mount to efforts to replace Torricelli on the ballot. But despite all the contortions Democrats will have to go through, the bottom line is that New Jersey is a very Democratic state -- and getting more so every day. While Republican nominee Doug Forrester is certainly a bright, attractive and capable fellow, his strength in this campaign was that he is not Torricelli. His weakness was that he is a Republican.
Assuming the Democrats can switch nominees -- and there is little reason to believe they will not -- this was not a good break for the GOP. The problem now for Republicans is that, in a sense, they will almost have to build a candidate from scratch. Up to this point, Forrester did not need to offer a vision or an agenda for the future. That was irrelevant to his mission -- but the mission has changed. In retrospect, the GOP hit Torricelli too hard, too early -- and now will probably face a considerably less flawed Democrat on Nov. 5.
Update: This, from Hesiod, is pretty funny:
A state Appellate Court today affirmed the ruling of Superior Court Judge Marguerite T. Simon that paves the way for millionaire businessman Douglas Forrester to run on the Bergen County GOP organization line in the June Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) filed suit last week to stop Bergen County Republican Chairman James Sheehan from awarding the line to Forrester after the James W. Treffinger withdrew from the race.

Posted October 01, 2002 08:14 AM | Comments (17)


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