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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
Democrats win Senate court battle
Frank Lautenberg (R) meeting Senate Democratic Party leaders
Lautenberg: likely to boost the Democrats' hopes
The US Democratic Party have won a key court victory in their fight to retain their one-seat majority in the Senate.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Democrats can replace New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli as their candidate for the Senate, even though the deadline for making such a change had passed.

Robert Torricelli
Torricelli: Apologised to voters but denied any wrongdoing
The court rejected a challenge by New Jersey Republicans to a state court ruling earlier this month.

Scandal-hit Senator Robert Torricelli abruptly pulled out of the 5 November election on 30 September.

The Democrats saw Mr Torricelli as a potential loser in the mid-term polls.

No intervention

In a unanimous decision earlier this month, the New Jersey Supreme Court had upheld the Democrats' right to replace Mr Torricelli by former Senator Frank Lautenberg.

But Republican Senate candidate Douglas Forrester asked the Supreme Court for an emergency stay blocking the New Jersey decision.

Republican Doug Forrester
Republican Doug Forrester wanted to block the change
But in a one-line order the Court denied the emergency application for a stay in what Mr Forrester's lawyer described as a "disappointing" decision.

Mr Torricelli's re-election chances slumped 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 feuded openly with Mr Torricelli who was his Senate colleague until he retired at the elections two years ago.

The Republicans argued that it was 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.

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:

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