Mississippi Democrats picked a young congressman as their candidate to replace John C. Stennis in the U.S. Senate, while Democratic Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland and Lloyd Bentsen of Texas easily overcame little-known primary opponents Tuesday.
As the first state primaries coincided with Super Tuesday, Rep. Wayne Dowdy defeated Secretary of State Dick Molpus for the Democratic nomination in Mississippi. He is expected to face a tough fight from Rep. Trent Lott, the House minority whip, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.
With 81% of the vote counted, Dowdy had 153,198 votes, or 54%, to Molpus' 121,602, or 43%. A third candidate, pipe fitter Gilbert Fountain, had 10,117 votes, or 4%.
Texas Republicans apparently will need a runoff to choose Bentsen's opponent.
Rematch of 1982 Primary
In a rematch of the 1982 primary, Bentsen defeated professor Joe Sullivan of San Antonio by a better than 5-1 margin.
Houston millionaire West Gilbreath and U.S. Rep. Beau Boulter of Amarillo appeared headed for a runoff for the GOP nomination to oppose Bentsen. With 23% of the vote counted, Gilbreath had 59,543 votes, or 34%, and Boulter had 56,404 votes, or 33%. Former state Rep. Milton Fox of Austin and businessman Ned Snead of Georgetown trailed with 18% and 15%, respectively.
In Maryland, Sarbanes easily won renomination for a third term and will face Thomas Blair, a millionaire political newcomer who beat eight other candidates for the Republican nomination. With 47% of the vote counted, Blair had 35,754 votes, or 48%, while none of his opponents had more than 13%.
Mississippi is one of the states where the GOP hopes to reduce or even reverse the Democrats' 54-46 advantage in the Senate. Eighteen of the 33 seats at stake this year are held by Democrats.
Stennis, 86, retiring after 41 years in the Senate, did not choose sides in the Democratic primary.
In addition to the Mississippi race, Republican hopes in the Senate this year were spurred by the retirement of Democratic Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin and Sen. Lawton Chiles of Florida.
However, the GOP is losing Sens. Paul S. Trible Jr. of Virginia, Daniel J. Evans of Washington and Robert T. Stafford of Vermont.