Farmer Wins GOP Sen. Primary in Vt.
Sep. 09, 1998
A retired dairy farmer who said he would spend only $16 on his tongue-in-cheek campaign defeated a millionaire corporate consultant Tuesday for the Republican nomination to challenge Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
It was the highlight of primary voting in four states, including New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Arizona, that decided nominations for four U.S. Senate seats and four governorships.
Millionaire Jack McMullen, 56, who recently moved to Vermont from Massachusetts, lost the Senate primary to Fred Tuttle, 79, who became a celebrity when he starred in a neighbor's low-budget regional movie.
With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Tuttle had 27,018 votes, or 55 percent, while McMullen had 22,148 votes, or 45 percent.
In ``Man With a Plan,'' Tuttle, playing himself in his familiar blue-bib overalls, appeared as a down-on-his-luck retired dairy farmer who runs for Congress because he needs the money.
In the movie, Tuttle's folksy, grass-roots campaign gains steam, and he beats the entrenched incumbent. In real life, the film's director asked Tuttle to run for Senate to promote the movie and protest McMullen's recent arrival in the state and his big-budget campaign.
McMullen lent his campaign $227,000 of his own money. Tuttle hosted a nickel-a-plate fund-raising dinner at his house. Renting portable toilets for the affair pushed his campaign spending near $200.
Partly because many Vermonters distrust outsiders, McMullen found himself on the defensive.
``I don't want somebody from Massachusetts to tell me how to run my life,'' said Mary LaCount, 58, as she left the Middlesex town hall Tuesday.
Even Leahy, unopposed for the Democratic nomination for a fifth term, said he wouldn't want to face Tuttle in November. Tuttle had suggested that he would not campaign against Leahy if he won, but he said Tuesday night he would stay in the race.
``After everybody's voted for me, how am I going to get out?'' he said.
Other senators running unopposed in their primaries were Democrat Russell Feingold, seeking a second term in Wisconsin, and Republican John McCain, a possible presidential contender in 2000 who is seeking a third term in Arizona. In November, Feingold will face Republican Rep. Mark Neumann and McCain will be opposed by Democratic environmental lawyer Ed Ranger.
Only Republican Sen. Judd Gregg in New Hampshire had a primary challenge in his bid for a second term, but he easily defeated state Rep. Phil Weber. Gregg will face Democrat George Condodemetraky this fall.
In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jane Hull faced voters for the first time since replacing Fife Symington, who resigned a year ago after his conviction for bank fraud.
Mrs. Hull, whose low-key style led one pollster to dub her ``Governor Mom,'' easily turned away two GOP challengers: Jim Howl, a former TV weatherman who was fired after being accused of sexual harassment, and Charles Brown, a political neophyte. Paul Johnson, a former mayor of Phoenix, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Another Republican governor, Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, had only token opposition and was nominated for a state-record fourth term _ a milestone that could boost a possible presidential bid in 2000. Attorney Ed Garvey, a former leader of the pro football players union, easily defeated state Sen. Gary George for the Democratic nomination.
Two popular Democratic governors, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Howard Dean in Vermont, were unopposed Tuesday and heavily favored to win new terms in November.
In Wisconsin's 2nd District in the Madison area, the retirement of Republican Rep. Scott Klug invited large fields of candidates in both parties. State Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a lesbian, won the Democratic primary, and Ron Greer, a Christian fundamentalist who crusades against homosexuality, was among the leaders in a GOP race that was too close to call.