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Calif. Race Will Fill Vacated House Seat

June 6, 2006

Voters in Southern California went to the polls Tuesday to fill the House seat of imprisoned former Rep. Randy ``Duke″ Cunningham, and eight states held primaries for governor, House or Senate, offering an early read on the public mood ahead of this fall’s midterm elections.

Money and attention from around the country poured into the San Diego-area election, with the Democrats seeing a rich opportunity to capture a solidly Republican district. Cunningham, a Republican, was sent to prison for eight years for taking bribes on a scale unparalleled in the history of Congress.

Another Washington corruption case figured in Montana’s primary, where GOP Sen. Conrad Burns sought the nomination for a fourth term. After his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff became known, Burns saw his popularity fall, and Democrats John Morrison, state auditor, and state Senate President Jon Tester jumped into the race.

Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey and South Dakota also held primaries.

In Alabama’s gubernatorial race, GOP Gov. Bob Riley faced a primary challenge from former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who became a hero to the religious right when he was ousted over his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse. But recent polls showed Riley far ahead.

Democrats chose between former Gov. Don Siegelman, who is on trial on corruption charges, and Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger faced no major competition for the GOP nomination, while state Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly fought a close and nasty contest for the Democratic nomination that left many voters dismayed.

In Iowa, the retirement of Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack set off a scramble for the Democratic nomination, with Secretary of State Chet Culver considered the front-runner. Republican Rep. Jim Nussle had no primary competition.

But California’s special election drew particular attention, largely because polls showed Democrat Francine Busby with significant support against Republican former Rep. Brian Bilbray.

With national polls showing deep dissatisfaction with Congress, President Bush and the war in Iraq, Democrats hoped to score a victory and build momentum for the fall midterm elections.

Among the House incumbents facing primary challenges Tuesday were GOP Rep. Richard Pombo and hawkish Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, both of California.

Voters also decided whether to create a $2.4 billion universal preschool program in California and ban gay marriage in Alabama.

A few races brought back some familiar names:

_ Tom Kean Jr., son of the former New Jersey governor, sought the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

_ Jerry Brown _ the former California governor, presidential candidate and current Oakland mayor _ sought the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

_ Chuck Espy, a state lawmaker and nephew of Mike Espy, Mississippi’s first black congressman since Reconstruction, sought the Democratic nomination for the House against incumbent Democrat Bennie Thompson.

_ George C. Wallace Jr., son of the former Alabama governor, ran in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor.

Update hourly