Former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, convicted of drug possession four years ago, was in a virtual dead heat in his reelection bid in early Democratic primary returns, local radio and television stations reported Tuesday.
Barry was a mere 200 votes behind council member John Ray, both with 41% of the vote, with incumbent Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly trailing far behind. The Democratic nominee is usually assured of election in the heavily Democratic city.
Tuesday marked the biggest hurdle in Barry's quixotic effort to win back the office he left when a 1990 arrest for smoking crack cocaine landed him in prison for six months.
In New Hampshire, Gov. Steve Merrill handily defeated two GOP challengers Tuesday, while colleagues in Rhode Island and Minnesota faced stiffer tests in the year's busiest primary day.
There was voting in nine states, plus the nation's capital. For the winners, there was little time to celebrate, as Election Day is just eight weeks away.
At stake overall were lineups for eight gubernatorial elections, eight Senate races and 73 House seats.
Rhode Island Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun, who presided over a banking crisis and acknowledged fathering a child out of wedlock, topped the list of incumbents at risk. State Sen. Myrth York led Sundlun in late polling. Providence television stations said their exit polling showed York would win overwhelmingly.
Among familiar names on the ballot was Patrick Kennedy, the son of the Massachusetts senator and favorite for a Democratic House nomination in Rhode Island.
Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson was favored in a contest that illustrated the fissure between Republican moderates like Carlson and Christian conservatives who are a growing power in the state. Carlson's opponent was former state lawmaker Allen Quist, a fierce opponent of abortion and homosexual rights who won the GOP nod over the sitting governor.
New Hampshire's Merrill will be heavily favored in November against Democratic state Sen. Wayne King and the winner of a Libertarian primary.
In New York, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, seeking a fourth term, had minor primary opposition from New Alliance Party leader Lenora Fulani, who ran for President in 1992. GOP leaders handpicked state Sen. George Pataki to oppose Cuomo, but Pataki first faced Richard Rosenbaum, a former state Republican chairman.
In Vermont's Senate bid, state Sen. Jan Backus and Doug Costle, a former Jimmy Carter Administration official, waged a spirited race for the Democratic nomination to run against GOP Sen. Jim Jeffords.
Early returns showed former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock in a tight race with developer Ruthann Aron for the GOP Senate nomination in Maryland. Incumbent Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes crushed token primary opponents.
As Republicans seek to gain seven seats and a Senate majority, the nine races without incumbents are major battles, and the fields for two of those were picked Tuesday.
In Minnesota, Rep. Rod Grams was favored in the Republican primary, while Democrats had a spirited two-way race. GOP Sen. David Durenberger is retiring.
And in Arizona, four Democrats sought the nomination for the seat being vacated by Sen. Dennis DeConcini. Rep. John Kyl was unopposed on the Republican side and favored in November.