October 01, 2002


WILL THE TORCH BE PASSED?: The New Jersey Democratic party is in a quandary, as Bob Torricelli has decided to drop out of the Senate race, and they are now suing to replace him on the ballot with former Senator Frank Lautenberg. If the state Supreme Court doesn't go for it, the Dems are in trouble- they'll be left with no candidate a month from the election.
I haven't heard anyone make the comparison yet, but this situation reminds me a lot of the 1990 Minnesota governors' race, in which Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich was challenged by conservative Republican Jon Grunseth, until Grunseth was implicated in a sex scandal with two weeks to go before election day, dropped out, and was replaced on the ballot by moderate Arne Carlson- who won the election (a turn of events only topped eight years later when Carlson was replaced as governor by a boa-wearing former professional wrestler).
The difference, though, was that Carlson was allowed on the ballot because he had finished second in that year's Republican primary, whereas Torricelli ran unopposed this year, and Lautenberg was of course not on the ballot.
I'm hoping the NJ Democrats can salvage this race; if not, they'll be the only of the four states I've lived in to currently have a Republican senator. That's also the case in Minnesota, where Paul Wellstone is running neck-and-neck against former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Wellstone was elected the same year as Carlson, 1990, and was my favorite politician of my formative political-junkie years. I've met him several times and he was always a friendly, affable guy who was sure to remember my name. And while my politics have drifted considerably from his over the years, I still admire Wellstone as one of the most passionate, charismatic and honest men in Washington- so it pains me to see that he may very well lose the election.
Wellstone is being squeezed big time over the Iraq situation- as a relatively dovish paleo-liberal, Paul is clearly anti-war, but if he votes against the use of force he risks turning off the state's moderates and hawks and helping his opponent with fundraising, while if he votes yes he'll antagonize the state's considerable hippie population, who have been picketing his office and have a Naderite Green Party candidate intent on electing the Republican. I don't generally have any quarrel with Norm Coleman, except for the time (after passing for years as a Jew from Brooklyn) that he was photographed in the Star Tribune in his living room in front of a large Christmas tree.
So it's not looking so great for the Senate staying Democratic this week, but that could change quickly. If a dead guy could win a Senate election in 2000, just about anything is possible in 2002.

Posted by Stephen Silver at October 1, 2002 11:29 PM
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