In the Garden State, the seemingly invincible Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D) found himself brought down earlier this summer by corruption charges—he dropped out of the race as it appeared that his loss might throw control of the chamber to the Republicans.
At that point, Torricelli’s Republican challenger, Douglas R. Forrester ’75, appeared to be headed toward a narrow victory.
Now, though, Forrester is battling a 78-year-old, twenty-year congressional veteran—former Sen. Frank Lautenberg—who retired from politics in 2000 only to be drafted again this fall by his party to replace Torricelli.
Forrester’s campaign, in all its expense, glory and possible defeat, has provided an outlet for his disillusioned son to escape the Ivy walls of Harvard.
Alexander Forrester ’03-’04, who says he is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, jumped at the opportunity to abandon what would have been his senior year to work on his father’s campaign.
Although the younger Forrester had no campaigning experience—and has said that he won’t work on any future campaigns—he approached his father’s campaign with a blend of familial idealism and political cynicism.
“My friends have not let me forget the irony in the fact that I dropped out of one so-called ‘corrupt’ institution, and joined an even more dubious one: the Republican Party of New Jersey,” Alex Forrester writes in an e-mail.
“Working on the campaign has confirmed my naive cynicism that I came in with,” he says. “Good people with good motives and ideas do exist, and we must all pray that they do not entirely abandon politics. I may be biased, but that is why I support my father’s dream: I know he knows the spirit of service that is required to be a public servant.”
According to Forrester’s blockmate Anthony J. Gabriele ’03, Alex appreciates his father and “glows” when he talks about him. The younger Forrester holds more liberal views on social issues, Gabriele says, but has come to realize that he differs less with his father on fiscal matters than he once thought.
“Alex had a love/hate relationship with his father, at least going into the campaign,” Gabriele says. “He found his father very inspiring, but their politics going in were very different. Alex was always trying to understand why a guy he respected holds these views.”
The senior Forrester’s odyssey began after the GOP’s likely candidate, a municipal- and county-level politician named James W. Treffinger, found himself the subject of a federal investigation into his finances.
Forrester, a millionaire business owner, stepped up and spent $5 million of his own money to defeat two state senators—Dianne Allen and John Matheussen—for the nomination, but he is still struggling with name recognition, especially against Lautenberg’s well-known status.
A pro-choice moderate, Doug Forrester’s success in a traditionally democratic state has astonished many. Polls prior to Torricelli’s withdrawal on Sept. 30 had him neck-in-neck with the incumbent.
Since the Democratic candidate switch, polls have shown Lautenberg in the lead with Forrester not far behind. A New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted Oct. 19-24 found Lautenberg at 48 percent and Forrester at 36 percent.
Since his father began running, Alex Forrester has been spending his days helping the campaign in any way he can—from writing speeches and policy papers to doing Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) activities.