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The Nation | NATIONAL ROUNDUP

Tight GOP Race for Arizona House Seat

Nine states, District of Columbia vote on last big day of primaries before November.

September 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

TUCSON — Conservative and moderate Republicans were locked in a close House race Tuesday night in Arizona that could have an effect on the national immigration debate.

With 89% of the precincts reporting, Randy Graf, who made his opposition to illegal immigration the center of his campaign, was leading moderate state Rep. Steve Huffmanor 43% to 37% for the Tucson-area seat left open by retiring moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe.

National GOP leaders angered local Republican candidates when they jumped into the race to support Huffman.

A Graf victory would strengthen the hand of Republicans opposing any revision to immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally.

But a Graf win also could improve prospects for Democrats gaining one of the 15 Republican seats they need to control the House.

Party officials have expressed concerns that Graf might be too conservative to beat the Democratic contender, former state legislator Gabrielle Giffords.

Len Munsil, former head of an advocacy group for Christian conservatives, defeated three other Republicans for the nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Munsil's opponents included Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Barry Goldwater, former senator and presidential candidate. Napolitano was unopposed in her primary.

Tuesday was the last big day of primaries before the November elections, with races also in Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, Minnesota, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

In New York, front-running Democrats swept aside primary challengers: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton trounced an antiwar candidate in her reelection bid, Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer crushed his opposition for the Democratic nod for governor and Andrew Cuomo easily won the party nomination for attorney general.

Clinton beat challenger Jonathan Tasini with more than 80% of the vote. She will face former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer.

Spitzer defeated Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi also with more than 80% of the vote. He will be heavily favored in the fall against the GOP nominee, former legislative leader John Faso.

Former federal Housing Secretary Cuomo -- son of former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo -- defeated Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate, 53% to 33%, to win the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

In the Maryland race to fill the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, 20-year Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin was leading Kweisi Mfume, former head of the NAACP, 46% to 37% with nearly three-quarters of precincts reporting.

The winner will face GOP Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is seeking to become the lone black Republican in the Senate.

Judges extended voting hours in Baltimore and nearby Montgomery County by one hour because of problems that delayed the opening of some polling places. Officials said some election judges did not show up on time, and others had trouble getting into the facilities.

In Minnesota, state Rep. Keith Ellison won the Democratic nomination for an open House seat that could make him the first Muslim in Congress. In a reliably Democratic district that has voted close to 70% for Democrats for nearly 30 years, he will be a favorite to win the Minneapolis-area seat in November.

Ellison courted the liberal wing of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party by comparing himself to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone -- and many voters responded. Others relished the chance to elect a minority to Congress from Minnesota for the first time; Ellison is black.

In the District of Columbia, council member Adrian Fenty beat longtime Council Chair Linda W. Cropp for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

In heavily Democratic Washington, the primary is tantamount to the general election.

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