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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
US court allows late candidate switch
Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester
Republican Doug Forrester will try to block any change
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that the Democratic Party can replace Senator Robert Torricelli as their candidate for the US Senate, even though the deadline for making such a change has passed.

Scandal-hit Senator Robert Torricelli abruptly pulled out of the November election on Monday - after the deadline for candidates to submit their names for the ballot.

Robert Torricelli
Torricelli was still the candidate after the deadline
In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the election law should be broadly interpreted to "to allow the voters a choice".

New Jersey Republicans have vowed to take the case to a federal court.

The decision on Wednesday is seen as an important victory for Democrats, who hold one-seat majority in the US Senate and saw Mr Torricelli as a potential loser.

Liability

The ruling paves the way for his replacement on the senate ballot in New Jersey by former Senator Frank Lautenberg.


It will be the shortest campaign I've ever been engaged in, but I sort of like the prospects

Frank Lautenberg
Correspondents say Democrats were concerned for Mr Torricelli's re-election chances after allegations from businessman David Chang who said he gave the senator gifts in return for his intervention in business deals in North and South Korea.

Mr Torricelli - who was elected in 1996 - has denied any illegality but was admonished over the summer by the Senate ethics committee.

Mr Lautenberg, who feuded openly with Mr Torricelli who was his Senate colleague until he retired at the elections two years ago, said he was looking forward to standing for election again.

"It will be the shortest campaign I've ever been engaged in, but I sort of like the prospects," he said.

Republican outrage

However the Republicans have vowed to try to stop Mr Lautenberg's name from getting on the ballot.


The Torricelli-Lautenberg machine's disregard for the rule of law [...] will once again make our great state the butt of national jokes

Douglas Forrester
They say it is too close to election day to replace Mr Torricelli and that Democrats should not be allowed to replace a candidate who is trailing in the polls.

A lawyer for the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee said the party and Republican nominee Douglas Forrester would ask the US Supreme Court on Thursday to stay the New Jersey high court ruling - in effect keeping Mr Lautenberg's name off the ballot.

"The Torricelli-Lautenberg machine's disregard for the rule of law, fair elections and the people... will once again make our great state the butt of national jokes," Mr Forrester said on Wednesday.

The Democrats currently hold 50 Senate seats, with Republicans controlling 49 Senate seats and Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, formerly a Republican, declared as an independent.

See also:

02 Oct 02 | Americas
25 Sep 02 | Americas
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24 May 01 | Americas
31 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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