South Jersey Democratic Party leaders have decided they prefer backroom politics to select a candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews.

If they get their way, whomever voters choose in the June 3 Democratic primary will become a placeholder for the person that party officials actually put on the general election ballot.

That's atrocious, and voters ought to signal their unwillingness to go along with the scheme by refusing to vote for the party's designated placeholder, Camille Andrews, the congressman's wife.

Unfortunately, the shaky qualifications of the two other candidates in the Democratic primary - John Caramanna and Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad - mean that the voters' best alternative is to write-in another candidate of their choice.

But that's what they should do.

Andrews threw party leaders into a tailspin with his last-minute decision to give up his First Congressional District seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. His announcement came only days before the filing deadline for the June 3 primary.

That set into motion what party honchos are calling a "process" through which Camille Andrews would run and win the primary with the understanding that she will step aside and allow about 800 party committee members to ultimately decide who will be on the November ballot.

The district includes 51 towns in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties.

Camille Andrews says she truly wants to be elected but also wants to respond to the party's needs. Her husband says he supports the process, but has vowed not to become the party candidate for his House seat if he loses to Lautenberg in the primary.

There's no way such obfuscation best serves voters or the party, which through this scheme will only further damage its already tarnished reputation for being manipulated by bosses.

Voters want a candidate, not a

process

that disenfranchises them.

Camille Andrews, 48, actually would make an ideal candidate. An attorney, she has an impeccable resume as a commercial litigator, investment firm manager, and former associate dean at Rutgers-Camden Law School. But her willingness to be in this scam sullies that record.

She says she supports a "fair process, so everybody has an opportunity that is meaningful." What's fair about having the party nominee decided by a chosen few? The committeemen are not unpledged national superdelegates given the power to subvert the wishes of the electorate.

Party leaders are sifting through the names of about two dozen Democrats who want to be the ultimate nominee. Some on the list have impressive backgrounds. But that doesn't make what they are participating in right.

On the Republican side,

DALE GLADING

, a resident of Barrington who heads a national prison evangelism ministry, gives GOP voters in the district their most viable candidate in years. He is running against disabled veteran Fernando Powers of Blackwood.

Glading, 48, makes cogent arguments for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq until the region is stable, favors school choice and vouchers, and would raise the eligibility age and increase payroll deductions to bail out Social Security.