CNN/TIME AllPolitics Vote '96

N.J.: Democrat Torricelli Defeats GOP's Zimmer

TRENTON, N.J. (AllPolitics, Nov. 5) -- In a bitter contest for retiring Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley's seat, Democratic Rep. Robert G. Torricelli defeated Republican Rep. Dick Zimmer. Toricelli

When running his House race in 1994, Torricelli received a 65 percent approval rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. That same year, Zimmer received a 25 percent ADA rating. In other words, while Torricelli was clearly to the left of Zimmer, both held fairly moderate views.

But to hear the two rivals campaign against each other in pursuit of an open Senate seat this year, they might as well have had ADA scores of 100 and zero, respectively. Today, Torricelli is "liberal -- and not worth it," while Zimmer is "just a mouthpiece for (Speaker) Newt Gingrich's extreme right."

Their attacks on each other also included allegations of campaign contributions from people with links to organized crime.

New Jersey traditionally is a swing state in presidential elections, and the Senate seat vacated by three-term Democrat Bill Bradley was crucial to the Democrats' hope of taking back the Senate majority.

Zimmer supports abortion rights and was one of only 10 Republicans voting against the GOP's balanced-budget bill last year. But his 94 percent support of the House Republicans' "Contract With America" encouraged Democratic efforts to link him with the conservative Republicans who run the House. Zimmer

Zimmer erected a billboard near Torricelli's Hackensack campaign office, criticizing the Democrat for missing hundreds of votes in the House. He also pounced on Torricelli's support of President Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package, which raised the gasoline tax and boosted income taxes for wealthier Americans.

Clinton came to Torricelli's defense, publicly praising him at a September rally in the state for supporting what he called crucial deficit-cutting legislation.

While the battle of the ballots was too close to call, Torricelli led in the battle of the bucks. As of June 30, he had $6 million in the bank, more than any other congressional candidate -- House or Senate. He began spending that bounty on TV ads in September.

Zimmer had less than half that amount: $2.7 million. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee helped Zimmer close the fund-raising gap by airing commercials blasting Torricelli on that 1993 budget vote and other issues.

Congressional Quarterly contributed to this report.

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