Rudy for N.J. Senator: A Modest Proposal

Robert Alt

October 1, 2002

The United States Supreme Court yesterday chose not to hear the challenge to the New Jersey Supreme Court decision which disregarded state election law in order to permit the replacement of Robert Torricelli with Frank Lautenberg on the November 5 ballot. That the court took a pass is unfortunate, for as I stated previously, the case squarely raised an interesting and recurring constitutional question.

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case has no precedential value and does not speak to the merits of the New Jersey decision, it nonetheless permits the N.J. ruling to stand. New Jersey law therefore now appears to have no fixed filing deadline for a candidate to appear on the ballot, and the new court-made law permits political parties to substitute a candidate even after the ballots have been printed for any reason, including electoral vulnerability. Given this new reality, parties can either lament the New Jersey Court’s disregard for the law, or they may embrace this bold, new world.

That brings me to my modest, new-world embracing proposal: Rudy Giuliani for New Jersey Senator. No, I’m not talking about in six years, I’m talking about now. It doesn’t matter that Doug Forrester has a reasonable chance of winning; all that matters is that he is already behind in the polls. If the Torricelli-Lautenberg maneuver has taught us anything, it is that when a candidate shows vulnerability, the party should cast him aside like so much dead weight. Why not go with a candidate that has an overwhelming chance of winning? Why not Rudy! Sure, this raises the issue of the residency requirement, but that’s just a “deadline,” and deadlines don’t mean anything in New Jersey—not when it might impair voter choice.

And why stop there? Why not replace all the trailing candidates? If Tim Hutchinson is trailing in Arkansas, then call in Asa Hutchinson. After all, Asa can use the Hutchinson buttons and you won’t even have to change the last name on the ballots. If Bill Simon is trailing Gray Davis in California, then call in Richard Riordan, or better yet, go with the sure-fire name recognition of Arnold Schwarzeneggar. I can see the campaign ads now: “Say ’hasta la vista’ to terrorism. Vote Schwarzeneggar.” Not to be outdone by the Republicans, the Democrats could call out their Hollywood friends for an all-star celebrity blitz, with Barbara Streisand running in North Carolina and Alec Baldwin returning to the country (he did leave when Bush won, didn’t he?) to run for Senator in Colorado. You get the idea.

Sure, such last minute machinations might distort the political process and focus on raw popularity rather than any stance on “issues,” but let’s just remember that the New Jersey decision invites such distortions. Indeed, the parties will have every incentive to make such last minute switches as long as public opinion permits it. So until the U.S. Supreme Court has another chance to review this judicial usurpation, and until the New Jersey voters decide to hold parties accountable for last minute manipulations, I say, bring on Rudy.

Robert Alt is an Adjunct Fellow of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, Ohio.