WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of a lower court's decision to allow former Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg to replace Sen. Robert Torricelli in the New Jersey Senate election on Nov. 5.
Monday's decision does not prevent the high court from eventually taking up the case. But prospects are bleak that the court will review the N.J. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling last Wednesday that Democrats can change candidates with just more than a month left before the election.
On Thursday, State Republicans filed an appeal with the court, arguing that the attempt to change candidates so close to the election denies voting rights to absentee and military ballot voters and is in violation of state law.
They also argued that swapping candidates is a devious means to replace a losing opponent.
Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester's lawyers said the New Jersey court's decision "opens the doors of American elections to considerable mischief."
Torricelli withdrew from his Senate re-election race against Forrester last week after polls showed him down by double digits following an undying ethics scandal.
Democrats sought to replace Torricelli with the popular Lautenberg, who retired in 2000 after three terms in the Senate. Lautenberg is edging out Forrester in the latest polls.
"It may be that Forrester believes he will be politically hurt by the New Jersey Supreme Court's judgment and is simply unwilling to say so," Democrats wrote in their defense of the decision.
The high court's decision came on the first day of its new term, exactly one week after the scuttlebutt began, and almost two years after it ruled for Republicans in the Florida election recount dispute.
Not receiving the injunction that they sought on Monday, Republicans also filed a protest with the Federal Elections Commission to deny Lautenberg the $5 million war chest that Torricelli has built.
Republican campaign officials say since Torricelli is no longer a candidate, he should instead have to refund any leftover contributions to his donors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.