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DECISION '98 | MIKE DOWNEY

Across the Nation, an Election Day to Talk About

November 04, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

California was not the only state in the union wrapping up wild, anything-can-happen election campaigns Tuesday, although in the other 49 (far more conventional) states, most of the candidates did appear to begin the day still among the living.

In Missouri, the vital issues that voters went to the polls to decide included the banning of bear wrestling.

In Minnesota, the governor's race was more than influenced by a third-party candidacy from a former professional wrestler, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, a clear indication that many Minnesotans, while probably very nice people, have lost their marbles.

In New York, three days beyond Halloween, voters defeated two of the state's scariest people, Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis in the governor's contest and Al D'Amato in the Senate race.

In Kansas, voters heard actor Robert Redford oppose a congressman who hadn't done enough, in his opinion, for the environment, while in Arizona, voters heard actor Wilford Brimley propose that they should, in his opinion, continue to have cockfighting.

George Bush's sons, Hubert Humphrey's son, Birch Bayh's son, John Sununu's son and Mo Udall's son and nephew were among the candidates in various scion-heavy state elections, here in a land of opportunity where we sure could use a few more daughters and nieces.

And in Michigan, a lawyer who represents Dr. Jack Kevorkian made a run for the governor's mansion.

Mercifully, he didn't make it.

*

Democrats were the ones Tuesday who really came loaded for bear.

Around the nation, they claimed Senate seats in key states such as New York, North Carolina, Indiana and Arkansas--good news politically for a certain Democrat from the District of Columbia who is currently fighting for his political life.

There were monumental Democratic triumphs in the state legislatures as well--in Iowa, for instance, where a candidate who was some 20 points behind in polls a few weeks ago just became that state's first Democratic governor in 30 years.

Democrats didn't win everything, by any means.

They lost a Senate seat in Ohio while the 77-year-old retiring office-holder was busy zooming around the Earth in a rocket ship.

On the whole, though, it was a night for Democrats to party. It was the first good news these people have gotten in a while.

You can bet Vice President Al Gore will continue to crow, the same way he did during the last days of campaigning. Gore's standard wisecrack of late has been: "The Republican party in 1998 is in such disarray that the right hand doesn't know what the far right hand is doing."

Always the comedian, that Al Gore.

But you can't blame Democrats much for cackling. They even unseated Lauch Faircloth, that grandly named North Carolina senator who virtually sponsored special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's entry into the public's consciousness.

Not only did Faircloth lose his Senate seat, he lost it to John Edwards . . . a lawyer.

Now there's some poetic justice.

Closer to home, Democrats definitely had reason to celebrate.

They appeared to be clear-cut winners of California's two closely watched contests, with Barbara Boxer making up lost time after a slow start to keep her Senate seat and Gray Davis ending the Republicans' 16-year stranglehold on the governor's office.

Boxer asked for nothing beautiful except the weather, predicting, "Good turnout, I win; low turnout, he wins." He being Matt Fong, who did not. Boxer by a split decision.

Davis captured a golden state with a drab image and a "Boring Is Beautiful" campaign motto, one of the oddest assets a candidate has ever stressed.

He might be boring, but one thing about Davis was undeniable. He was alive.

*

California has had its share of crazy election days, but the granddaddy of them all could have been the day a dead man got elected.

It didn't happen. Sherman Block, who expired five days ago and STILL didn't concede, was not elected L.A.'s county sheriff. Lee Baca was, by an apparent landslide.

That was an unusual election, but California's voters didn't have a monopoly on weird ones.

Ask the people of Newport, Maine.

Never mind governor or senator. In that New England town, voters Tuesday were asked to vote on a ballot measure. It called for a ban on topless lawn mowing.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or e-mail mike.downey@latimes.com

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