State Democratic Chairman Joseph Cryan's decision to file an appeal to a Superior Court judges' ruling today created an opening for the campaign of U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) to argue that U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) could not claim total victory in the courtroom.
"Has Cryan decided to appeal today’s ruling on behalf of Lautenberg?" said Andrews spokesman Michael Murphy.
He answered his own question, "Certainly."
Cryan, a Lautenberg supporter, and the Lautenberg people both deny that’s the case and say it’s more desperation from Andrews to spin a loss into an optimistic sound-bite.
"We are not appealing the decision," said Julie Roginsky, spokesperson for the Lautenberg campaign.
Andrews, who is challenging Lautenberg, fought an unsuccessful battle in the courts to try to get all three of the U.S. Senate candidates to be bracketed together – without any other down ballot candidates – in their own interfacing column on the primary ballot.
Although that main appeal for relief failed in the appellate division of Superior Court, a second, smaller request succeeded, and secured for Andrews a clerks' redrawing for ballot position in seven counties – not necessarily a substantial victory, but one that the Andrews people accepted as small reward for their legal labors.
Even though the judges' decision today allows the organizational candidate to have the advantage statewide of being bracketed with other organization candidates, the seven-county redrawing gives all three U.S. Senate candidates – Andrews, Lautenberg and Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello – a shot at line A on the ballot.
While Lautenberg – the organizational favorite in the bulk of powerhouse Democratic counties – welcomed with open arms the first part of the decision and played down as insignificant the second part, Cryan, who supports Lautenberg over Andrews, dispatched party lawyers to appeal the second part.
"I'm pleased with the decision to allow bracketing," he said, "although as the state chair I believe that line should get preference in any primary."
In other words, the organizational candidate and his organization allies should always have the right not merely to associate in the same line but to occupy line A, according to Democratic Party insiders.
Murphy didn’t accept that the appeal is anything other than a tactic in the current campaign cycle.
"It’s a pretty thin veil they’re using to protect Lautenberg," he said.