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Democrats trying to change the rules AGAIN!!!

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First they want to count dimpled chads. Now they want to change New Jersey election law? :rolleyes:

N.J. High Court to Hear Senate Case

Tue Oct 1, 1:33 PM ET

By JOHN P. McALPIN, Associated Press Writer

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The state Supreme Court decided Tuesday to hear arguments over whether Democrats can replace Sen. Robert Torricelli ( news, bio, voting record) on the November ballot, a day after the senator abruptly dropped out of the race.

The court issued an order saying it would hear the case directly instead of waiting for a lower court to act. The high court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning. As a result, a hearing set for Tuesday afternoon in Middlesex County Superior Court was canceled.

The Democrats, who hold a one-seat majority in the Senate, had asked the state's top court to hear the case directly because of the urgency involved.

Arguments now center on state election laws and filing deadlines, but the parties could claim that residents would have their voting rights shortchanged by any decision. That could force the issue to the federal courts, possibly directly to the U.S. Supreme Court ( news - web sites), said Republican lawyer Bill Baroni.

Torricelli's end to his scandal-tainted re-election campaign forced Democrats to scramble for a candidate. Democratic officials said Monday they had hoped to announce a new candidate within 48 hours.

A top choice, Rep. Robert Menendez ( news, bio, voting record), took himself out of the running Tuesday morning. Menendez, the fourth-ranking Democrat in House leadership, said he wants to remain in the House and continue to help Democrats fight for a majority.

Party officials also were considering such possibilities as former Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bill Bradley ( news - web sites) and current House members Frank Pallone and Rob Andrews, according to sources in Washington and New Jersey.

Pallone said Tuesday he would consider replacing Torricelli, but added that he had not been asked. Lautenberg said he would "seriously consider serving again if asked." An associate said it was unlikely Bradley would accept. Calls to other potential candidates were not immediately returned.

Angelo Genova, a lawyer for state Democrats, said party officials would meet Wednesday night to decide on a replacement. Genova also said a judge has signed a temporary restraining order barring clerks from making or mailing any ballots until the case is decided.

Torricelli dropped out after his campaign was severely damaged by allegations he improperly accepted expensive gifts from a campaign contributor. The senator was admonished over the summer by the Senate ethics committee.

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. But only 35 days remained as of Tuesday.

Republicans vowed to block any attempt to replace Torricelli this close to the election.

"In 36 days, decency, fairness and the rule of the law will trump this desperate attempt to retain power," said Douglas Forrester, Torricelli's GOP opponent. "The people of New Jersey have had enough of playing politics with the fundamental tenets of democracy."

Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey said that placing a new candidate on the ballot would be a fair way to resolve the issue and would "give New Jersey voters a chance to speak."

The Democrats are defending their one-seat advantage in the Senate in midterm elections.

"I will not be responsible for the loss of the Democratic majority of the United States Senate. I will not let it happen. There is just too much at issue," Torricelli, 51, said in abandoning his re-election bid Monday.

Torricelli was elected in 1996 to replace Bradley, the former basketball star who later ran for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination and lost to Al Gore ( news - web sites). Torricelli and Lautenberg, who retired in 2000, served together in the Senate but often were at loggerheads.

Torricelli was always a powerhouse fund-raiser: He helped raise more than $100 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as its chairman in the last election cycle. He was awarded a seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and helped defend President Clinton ( news - web sites) against impeachment.

But Torricelli's career began to unravel as the public learned more about his relationship with businessman David Chang, who told investigators he gave the senator Italian suits and an $8,100 Rolex watch, among other gifts, in return for Torricelli's intervention in business deals in North and South Korea ( news - web sites).

Seven people pleaded guilty to making illegal donations to Torricelli's campaign in 1996.

Torricelli denied any illegality or violations of Senate rules but was admonished anyway. Federal prosecutors investigated but decided against filing charges against him.

The incumbent launched an effort to apologize to the state's voters, but last week a memo in the Chang case was released publicly. In it, prosecutors said Chang's efforts had "greatly advanced" the investigation into the senator's actions, despite Chang's "credibility problems."

Forrester, a wealthy businessman, has harped on ethics throughout the campaign and it worked: A poll released over the weekend showed him with a 13-point lead over Torricelli. The same poll showed the incumbent with a 14-point lead in June.

"I pride myself on a strong voice. My colleagues in the Senate would tell you that it is often heard above all others but it doesn't matter if you can't be heard at all in a campaign," Torricelli said. "I'm in a debate with a faceless foe that I cannot find, minds I cannot change."

Tuesday morning, Forrester said Torricelli's move "means we can talk about the issues." In an interview on WABC-TV in New York, Forrester said, "Whenever I tried to bring up another issue like the environment, it somehow always got back to being about" Torricelli.

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