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Women Leading In Nebraska Governor’s Race

May 13, 1986

Undated (AP) _ The most crowded gubernatorial primary campaign in Nebraska history ended today as voters faced the historic possibility of nominating women as the candidates of both major political parties.

Meanwhile, voters also went to the polls today in 32 New Jersey municipalities, including the state’s largest city, Newark, where Mayor Kenneth Gibson was seeking an unprecedented fifth term, and Atlantic City, where Mayor James L. Usry was seeking a second term.

Gibson voted at about 7:30 a.m. at the Vailsburg High School in Newark’s West Ward. Poll Clerk Mary VanPelt said early turnout was good. ″We have a steady flow of people coming in and out.″

In Nebraska, eight Republicans and seven Democrats sought the nominations of their parties, the most gubernatorial hopefuls in state history. Gov. Bob Kerrey did not seek a second term and remained neutral during the primary.

Two women, State Treasurer Kay Orr, 47, and Nancy Hoch, 49, a member of the state university Board of Regents, led the GOP candidates in recent newspaper polls, with Kermit Brashear, a former chairman of the state party, within striking distance of both women.

On the Democratic side, former Lincoln Mayor Helen Boosalis, 66, was seen by party officials, and the polls, as leader in the seven-candidate field. If elected, she would be the oldest governor to take office in Nebraska.

Her leading challengers were former state Sen. Chris Beutler, 41, and Norfolk attorney David Domina, 35, who if elected would be the youngest governor in state history.

Secretary of State Allen Beermann predicted that just 320,000 Nebraskans would vote, saying a variety of factors, including the lack of constitutional amendments on the ballot and the large number of candidates, would cut turnout. It would be the lowest primary turnout since 1966.

Election officials in four of Nebraska’s most populous counties this morning said turnout ranged from light to good. ″The weather is gorgeous so hopefully a lot of people will get out to vote,″ said Lincoln County Clerk Nadine Heath in North Platte, Neb.

Nebraska has never had a woman governor; seven women, all Democrats, have been elected governor in other states.

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Mrs. Hoch ran a close but losing race against incumbent Democratic Sen. J. James Exon in 1984. That same year, Mrs. Orr was the first woman elected to statewide office in Nebraska.

The other Republican candidates are former Omaha councilman Monte Taylor; businessman Roger Yant; Chuck Loos, who is unemployed; the Rev. Everett Sileven; and Paul Rosberg, 35, a farmer.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination were state Sen. Marge Higgins, 54; Robert Prokop, 51, a former member of the Board of Regents; Barton Chandler, 48, a former bus driver who is now unemployed; and Mina Dillingham, 85, a self-described evangelist.

In New Jersey, both Gibson and Usry are being challenged by former allies who contend the leaders haven’t done enough for their communities.

Gibson is being challenged by three men, including Councilman Sharpe James with whom the 53-year-old mayor took office in 1970.

″Conditions in Newark today are much better than they were in 1970,″ said Gibson, the first black mayor of a major Northeastern city. Gibson will not discuss his opponents, saying he wants to be judged on his record.

But James, a 49-year-old college professor, says residents live in fear of crime, young people have no hope, and poverty has gripped the city.

Also challenging Gibson in the non-partisan election are the Rev. Oliver Brown, 44, a member of the Newark Board of Education, and Dennis Knight, 30, a substitute teacher.

In Atlantic City, Usry, 64, a former assistant school superintendent, seemed assured of election to a second two-year term until two former supporters - Councilman Harold Mosee, 44, and Bernard B. Fulton Jr., 52, who was head of Usry’s 1984 campaign - entered the non-partisan race.

State Assemblywoman Dolores Cooper, 63, also challenged Usry, becoming the lone white candidate and raising the possibility of a vote split along racial lines and a division of black voters that could defeat Usry or force a runoff.

Usry claims that under his leadership, Atlantic City has ″turned the corner″ toward becoming the revitalized resort envisioned when voters approved casino gambling in 1976, but his challengers disagree.

In the nation’s only other primary election Tuesday, West Virginia voters have only one major race that is contested.

U.S. Rep. Harley O. Staggers is opposed in the Democratic primary by Charles Wood, a coal miner and Lyndon LaRouche supporter who doesn’t live in the district and ran a $210 campaign, and by former state Rep. D.P. Given.

Reps. Bob Wise, Alan Mollohan and Nick Joe Rahall are unopposed in the Republican primary.

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