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NEW JERSEY

Walk The Line

The NJ Supreme Court on 5/1 "declined" to review an appeals court's order directing clerks in 11 counties to redesign their Dem primary ballots. The case was brought by Rep. Rob Andrews (D), who "sued to prevent" Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) "from being given a preferential ballot position in counties where he is running with party-endorsed candidates for other offices" in the 6/3 SEN primary. The lower court "upheld" Lautenberg's "right" to be "bracketed with allied candidates. But it ordered the clerks in 11 counties to redraw their ballots, finding they were 'inconsistent' with the legislature's attempts to establish equality among candidates" (Hepp, Newark Star-Ledger, 5/2). County clerks "enjoy latitude in constructing ballots." They "typically award the top ballot position to the highest office seeker" who is "bundled" or "bracketed" with candidates for local office. "That system favored Lautenberg. ... Andrews wanted all the candidates on the same line, with each of them getting a chance at occupying the perceived top spot" (Delli Santi, AP, 5/1).

The Florio Model

Newark Star-Ledger's Margolin chronicles Andrews' long quest for a statewide perch.

In early fall '02, then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) "had just decided to abort a re-election effort hobbled by scandal." Top Dems "gathered at the governor's mansion to pick a replacement." Andrews' name was mentioned -- and just as quickly nixed" by then-Gov. James McGreevey (D). "Five years earlier, McGreevey had bested [Andrews] in an ugly primary fight ... and the wounds were still raw."

 

"Without strong support" from other north NJ Dem leaders to "push back against McGreevey's veto," Andrews "was left to watch" as Lautenberg was recruited to run for a fourth term. "But this time, it's different. The southerner has allies in the north. Andrews has long wanted to be a statewide figure -- a tough task for a politician from southern New Jersey in a party dominated by [northern] counties, which together hold more than half" of NJ Dems.

"When he was passed over," he "realized he hadn't done the groundwork to break through the north-south divide. Andrews" "What 2002 did was to bring into very bold relief to me the mistakes that I made. I remember sitting there and saying that I shouldn't be at all surprised be cause I hadn't done what I needed to do. Nobody had to tell me that. It was obvious."

With Lautenberg on his way back to DC, Andrews "sat at home in Camden County one night, sorting things out. ... By morning he had decided: He would follow in the footsteps of his mentor" and fellow south NJer, ex-Gov. Jim Florio (D), "and turn his attention northward."

 

"Now as he takes on Lautenberg, Andrews has "rounded up support" from "key players on what should be the incumbent's home turf." Andrews' supporters "say it's a sign that the geographical divide is breaking down" (5/2).

"Dancing, Bobbing And Weaving?" Not Bad For An Old Guy.

Lautenberg "yesterday turned down a debate" offered jointly by Richard Stockton College and the Press of Atlantic City, saying the proposed dates (5/5 and 5/6) "conflicted" with his Senate schedule. Andrews, in a conf call: "When I got into this race I challenged the incumbent Senator to a minimum of seven debates. He has danced, bobbed, weaved, hidden and we really had no answer until yesterday ... Yesterday, for the first time, we have a definitive answer, and it's the wrong one." Andrews called the refusal "outright disrespectful to the people of our state" (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com, 5/1).

There But For The Grace Of God ...

Andrews "scolded" a SEN camp aide "for sending an Internet message to supporters" with a "bawdy come-on line." The message, sent by staffer Jay Lassiter through Facebook, "carried an attention-getting subject line that offered 'free booze' and, well ... more."

The message read: "(yeah you guys have to know that was a bait and switch!) But this here video is so cool you'll want to drop what you're doing and take a peek." Attached was a link to a YouTube video of the candidate on the campaign trail.

 

"Withing minutes, Lassiter followed up with another post to say the previous note was "intended for my little brother." More Lassiter: "Kindly forgive me for getting my Facebook wires crossed and sending out such a dumb message to the wrong people. It undermines all the cool stuff we are doing and i regret the obtrusive distraction. I promise to be more careful with my subject lines from here on out. Humbly, Jay Lassiter (who's feeling contrite and embarrassed)."

Andrews, on Lassiter: "He has been reprimanded very severely for this mistake. He was told that this was a foolish mistake and he should not do it again."

This article appears in the May 2, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.

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