Dead candidate keeps his party's hopes alive

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THE New York Times advised readers, in all seriousness, yesterday to cast their votes for a dead man in primary elections to select a candidate to run for Congress this year.

Early exit polls indicated that the newspaper's editorial was being taken at face value and the dead candidate might be elected, much to the relief of the Democratic machine and party supporters.

'A vote for Mr Weiss now counts,' said the po-faced editorial, which went on to explain that, with the death on Monday of Congressman Ted Weiss, 'New Yorkers lost a gentle, respected Representative who never strayed from his political roots as an unreconstructed liberal'.

Democratic leaders were also pleading with voters to support the dead man in yesterday's ballot.

'Pull the lever for Ted,' said the party's Manhattan leader, Dinny Farrell, as registered Democrats disappeared behind the curtains of the city's cumbersome mechanical voting machines.

Someone less than au fait with the intricacies of Democratic politics could be forgiven for wondering what was going on.

The reason for all this strange behaviour was the fear that the dead Congressman's only opponent, Arthur Block, a member of a militant cult known as the New Alliance Party, would be elected.

This group, which draws support mainly from the Hispanic and black communities, has been likened by political commentators to an amalgam of the Moonies and the Militant Tendency.

Such an upset would threaten the Democratic machine's grip on a key congressional seat at a time when the Republicans are starting to make inroads in New York, the liberal capital of America.

But under an arcane provision of the state's election laws a dead man can be elected, and the Democratic leaders can then pick a successor to run in the general election.

Because the district is so overwhelmingly Democratic, victory is virtually assured over the Republican, a political unknown.

Bush avoids attack, page 13