UPI Political Roundup

By AL SWANSON  |  Oct. 4, 2002 at 5:12 PM
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Torricelli Capers

Friday's political cartoon in the Atlanta Journal Constitution succinctly sums up the legal battle over the New Jersey Senate race in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the panel, Justice Anthony Kennedy turns to Justice John Paul Stevens and asks, "So, who are you voting for in the New Jersey Senate Race? ..."

Justices Antonin Scalia, a Trenton native, Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice Rehnquist sit pokerfaced on one side and justices Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg and Thomas gaze Sphinx-like on the other.

Democrats filed their rebuttal in the high court, setting the stage for the justices to intervene in the state race in a scene reminiscent of the court's Bush-Gore decision on a Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.

Lawyers for New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester want the high court to block the New Jersey Supreme Court's order allowing former senator Frank Lautenberg to replace Sen. Bob Torricelli on the ballot.

Trailing a virtual unknown by some 13 points, Torricelli withdrew Monday after his support collapsed following a rebuke by the Senate ethics committee for accepting gifts from a crooked businessman. Republicans say replacing him with the well-known Lautenberg, 78, is a calculated maneuver by Democrats to flaunt state election law and give them a shot at holding onto their slim Senate majority.

"If the lower court ruling is allowed to stand political parties will be encouraged to withdraw losing candidates on the eve of election replacing them with candidates who have not gone through the rigors of the nomination process in hopes of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat," Forrester's application to the court said.

Democrats say New Jersey voters deserve a choice on the ballot -- that Democracy is the issue. New Jersey law says any ballot change must be made at least 51 days before an election.

There's also the question of what to do about absentee ballots with Torricelli as the choice.

Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz said in another election year, without control of the Senate hanging by a single seat, Torricelli probably would have rolled the dice on Nov. 5. After all, he wasn't indicted and New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate for 30 years.


"Tape-gate" is still in the news in Iowa two weeks after Republicans discovered a former aide to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin surreptitiously tape recorded a closed Republican strategy session for 24 campaign donors at the Savery Hotel in Des Moines last month.

GOP challenger Greg Ganske likens the incident to Watergate, but Harkin, a three-term incumbent, calls the affair "Dennis the Menace capers."

The Des Moines Register said police had not talked to anyone in Harkin's campaign as of late Thursday although two staff members resigned. Prosecutors reportedly were considering a criminal investigation.

Democrats contend the taping was legal under state law and say Brian Conley, a Des Moines businessman who worked in Harkin's U.S. House office in 1975-76, was invited by mail after making a $50 campaign contribution to Ganske.

Republicans say turning the tape over to the Harkin campaign was illegal.

About the toughest statement Ganske makes in an 11-page transcript now in circulation is a promise to attack Harkin "with a smile on our face. Not angry, not growling or scowling, just being so happy we are just going to whip back the stress from our shoulders."

Bush-Gore redux

President Bush flew into Boston Friday to give a boost to Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney, the former head of the Winter Olympics. Former Vice President Al Gore, the rival Bush beat for the presidency, meanwhile, campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shannon O'Brien. "He knows how to take a struggling organization and turn it around," Bush said, referring to Romney's successful effort to repair the scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Winter Olympics Organizing Committee. "It was not only successful but profitable" for Salt Lake City. A new poll out Friday showed Romney and O'Brien in a statistical dead heat. Boy, does that sound familiar.

Poll: Disenchanted voters turn to Davis

California Gov. Gray Davis's attack strategy has paid dividends with a poll showing the incumbent Democrat with a growing lead over conservative Republican challenger Bill Simon Jr.

The Los Angeles Times Poll released Tuesday had Davis leading Simon, 45 percent to 35 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Remaining voters supported other candidates.

With an expected low turnout next month Davis' lead widens. The newspaper says a barrage of Democratic attack ads pushed dissatisfied voters closer to Davis, but only 40 percent said they were happy with the governor. Davis began his campaign with only middling support because of his performance during last year's energy crisis. More than half of likely voters disapproved of the way Davis handled state budget problems.

Sixty-five percent of registered voters likely to cast ballots said they wished there were other candidates with a realistic chance of winning and 51 percent said they believed the Golden State was headed in the wrong direction, up from 40 percent in February.

New Hampshire senate race tight

In New Hampshire, departing Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Congressman John E. Sununu are locked in a tight battle for a seat in the U.S. Senate. One recent poll had Shaheen with a slight 46-44 lead over Sununu, while another poll gave Sununu a 55-34 percent lead over Shaheen. While Sununu paints Shaheen as just another tax-and-spend Democrat, Shaheen has accused Sununu of being in the pocket of corporations that set up domiciles in Bermuda to avoid paying U.S. taxes on overseas business.

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