N.J. Democrats Drop Challenge on Whitman

from Times Wire Services

The Democratic State Committee can't prove that Republicans suppressed black voter turnout and will no longer seek to overturn Christine Todd Whitman's gubernatorial victory, its chairman said Saturday.

Raymond Lesniak said the state party will consult with the Democratic National Committee and decide Monday whether to drop the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Nov. 2 election, or amend it to ask for sanctions against the Republicans.

"I've said from the outset that we faced a very difficult burden of proof," Lesniak said. "Now it's apparent that we've not been able to establish enough evidence to impact on the results of the election, so we're going to do one of two things.

"We're either going to withdraw the suit and await the outcome of the federal and state investigations, or we're going to amend the suit to seek lesser remedies than invalidating the election."

Possible sanctions could include court-mandated voter registration or voter education programs, Lesniak said. The Democratic National Committee is a party to the lawsuit.

Carl Golden, a spokesman for Whitman's transition office, declined to comment Saturday. Whitman, who defeated Democratic Gov. James J. Florio by 26,600 votes, has denied wrongdoing.

Republican attorneys had planned to ask for dismissal of the lawsuit at a Dec. 7 hearing.

The Democrats sued after Whitman's campaign manager, Edward J. Rollins, said Republicans paid some Democratic workers to stay home Election Day and some black clergy not to preach for Florio. Rollins later retracted his comments.

Democratic attorneys questioned Rollins under oath as well as Whitman's brother and campaign adviser, Webster B. (Dan) Todd Jr.

Rollins testified that he lied about voter suppression to rile his Democratic rival, James Carville, while Todd said he did not know of any suppression effort.

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