The battle for New Jersey

New Jersey voters had good news last week. The good news was that Robert Torricelli, one of the worst Democratic Senators in the Northeast, had dropped his reelection bid. Besides having a record of aggressively supporting the Reagan contra war against the people of Nicaragua, Torricelli was hopelessly compromised by a corruption scandal that doomed him to defeat.

Democratic Party leaders, led by Gov. Jim McGreevey, pressured Torricelli out of the race, and moved to replace him with former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who had served three terms in the Senate. From the perspective of labor and progressive voters, Lautenberg was one of the best Senators in the Northeast.

Right-wing Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester, who had been denouncing Torricelli’s corruption and calling for him to resign, then turned around and denounced “party bosses” for undermining the “integrity” of the primary system by removing the “candidate of the people,” Torricelli. Never mind that Torricelli had been unopposed in the Democratic primary and that Forrester himself, a wealthy businessman largely unknown to New Jersey voters, had used his money to win the Republican primary from Diane Allen, a respected but underfunded state legislator.

The Republicans even took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court after the New Jersey Supreme Court, both Democrats and Republicans, voted 7-0 to let Lautenberg replace Torricelli on the Democratic ticket. New Jersey law stresses voter choice and gives minority parties and independent candidates relatively easy access to the ballot.

Those who continued to denounce the stealing of the 2000 elections by the Bush campaign and the Republicans can take heart. Today the Supreme Court, realizing, in the words of the first elected Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that it could not fool all of the people all of time, refused to hear the Republicans’ case, thus effectively putting Frank Lautenberg on the ballot.

Now, it is important to bring labor, minority and progressive voters to the polls to keep the Senate and take the House away from the party of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and the others who have given us a government that resembles the road company of Dr. Strangelove. Then it will become much easier to oppose Bush administration initiatives and remove the administration from office in 2004.





Norman Markowitz is a history professor at Rutgers University. The author can be reached at markowit@email.history.rutgers.edu