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NJ Democrats Behind Fake Tea Party Candidate

| Fri Oct. 8, 2010 8:25 AM PDT

Democratic operatives close to Rep. John Adler say that the New Jersey congressman's campaign recruited candidate purportedly representing the "New Jersey Tea Party" as third-party spoiler. The Courier Post reports:

Congressman John Adler's campaign and the Camden County Democratic Committee recruited "NJ Tea Party'' candidate Peter DeStefano to confuse conservative voters and hurt Adler's Republican challenger this fall, Democratic operatives say.

"The goal was to take 5 percent of (Republican Jon) Runyan's vote,'' said a Democrat with direct knowledge of the Adler campaign and CCDC operations…Adler, who is in a knife-fight with Runyan in the conservative-leaning 3rd district, is aware of the DeStefano plan, Democrats said.

Questions about DeStefano first surfaced over the summer, when it became apparent that local tea party activists had never heard of him before he announced his candidacy. This isn't the first time that Democrats have tried to use "Tea Party" candidates as spoilers this election cycle. In Michigan, the state Supreme Court invalidated a "Tea Party" Party that Democrats had set up to back third-party candidates in scores of races across the state.

Republicans have a long history of such shenanigans, typically propping up the Green Party in recent election cycles. In Arizona, a Republican operative was particularly brazen in recruiting three homeless people to run for state office. And in Texas, Republicans spent a half-million dollars in an effort to put the Texas Green Party on the ballot in the state race—backed by sketchy operatives who also tried to help Ralph Nader in the 2004 race.

Such dirty tricks obviously have a chance of backfiring, so the Democrats really shouldn't be in a rush to match the GOP in resorting to such tactics. And it looks particularly bad when the candidate himself seems to be complicit.

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