Incumbent Democratic Rep. John Adler is facing a tough reelection battle against Republican Jon Runyan in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District – RealClearPolitics shows the freshman Congressman with a narrow 4-point lead. What complicates the picture is the campaign of a third-party candidate Peter DeStefano under the Tea Party banner, currently pulling between 4 and 7 points to the most likely detriment of Runyan.
There’s only one problem – an article published today in the Courier-Post indicates that Tea Party candidate DeStefano is a Democratic plant by the Adler campaign to siphon votes away from a threatening challenger. The plan was concocted by Camden County Democratic Committee consultant Steve Ayscue and national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee consultant Geoff Mackler, who got the South Jersey Young Democrats to get the necessary petition signatures in a hurry so DeStefano could get on the ballot.
As the article mentions, there is nothing explicitly illegal with what the Adler campaign has done, and it’s true that third-party triangulation is part of politics. But the outright planting of a spoiler with the express intention of confusing and misleading voters is a damning statement on a candidate’s unwillingness to run on his own record. It’s a cheap and dirty trick that represents why so many of the public hold such skeptical and negative views of politicians.
Runyan has called a press conference to deal with what he calls the “fraud” Tea Party candidate DeStefano. If he has any sense, he’ll hammer this issue hard as an illustration of how far Adler and his campaign will go to mislead voters simply to serve their own electoral ambitions. This is going to get national play and it may dramatically shift the race in New Jersey’s 3rd district.