Associated Press
September 12, 2000

Clinton Wins N.Y. Senate Primary

by Robert Tanner

New York (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton breezed past a little-known challenger to win New York's Democratic Senate primary Tuesday, while Selma, Ala., elected its first black mayor, unseating a reformed segregationist.

In Vermont, two Republican legislators who voted for the state's civil unions law for gay couples were ousted, two more were trailing badly, and a Democrat who opposed it also was defeated.

As nine states and the District of Columbia held contests on the last big primary day of 2000, the first lady built a wide lead over orthopedic surgeon Mark McMahon en route to her contest against unopposed Republican Rep. Rick Lazio in November.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton had 458,747 votes, or 81 percent, to McMahon's 108,139 votes, or 19 percent. The question for Clinton, whose nomination had been all but assured from the time of her entry into the race, was whether McMahon would do well enough to embarrass her. Analysts said he'd have to win a quarter to a third of the vote to do that.

In Selma, businessman James Perkins defeated Joe Smitherman, a white man first elected before the bloody civil rights march of 1965.

Perkins received 6,326 votes, or about 57 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan runoff marked by heavy turnout. Smitherman had 4,854 votes, or about 43 percent.

''Many have said it's about black and white. That ain't so,'' Perkins said. ''Faith won this campaign.''

The 70-year-old Smitherman was a segregationist when he first took office in 1964. He later welcomed blacks into his administration as blacks grew to become the majority in this central Alabama city of about 22,000 people.

In Vermont, where homosexuals can now be united in civil ceremonies, a dozen Republican legislators who voted for the law were targeted in their primaries. Signs across parts of the state urged: ''Take Back Vermont.''

One of the chief authors of the bill, Democrat House Judiciary Chairman Thomas Little, beat back a challenge. But Republican state Reps. Marion Milne and John Edwards were defeated, and Republican state Reps. Robert Kinsey and William Fyfe were trailing. Also, a Democrat who voted against civil unions -- state Rep. James McNamara -- was ousted.

In New York, Republican-turned-Democratic Rep. Michael Forbes was locked in a dead heat with a 71-year-old former librarian who launched a dark-horse campaign. Regina Seltzer, who raised $40,000 to Forbes' $1.4 million, was virtually tied with the incumbent with 98 percent of the vote tallied.

In the New York City area, despite shifting demographics that spurred strong challenges to Democratic incumbents, Rep. Eliot Engel won nomination for a new term and Rep. Major Owens was leading. Both are in districts so heavily Democratic that the nomination is almost tantamount to victory in November.

The GOP choice for Lazio's open seat on Long Island was Islip Town Clerk Joan Johnson, who would be the first black woman Republican in the House if elected.

In Minnesota, GOP Sen. Rod Grams' first term left him with poor poll numbers and a Democratic scramble to unseat him. He easily beat a little-known candidate for his party's nomination.

Department store heir Mark Dayton beat three other Democrats for the nomination in a $10 million race that broke state records. Half the spending came from Dayton, a former state auditor.

No U.S. senator or governor wound up with a strong primary challenger.

In Rhode Island, where four-term GOP Sen. John Chafee died last year, his son Lincoln -- appointed to fill out his term -- was unopposed. Rep. Robert Weygand won the Democratic nomination.

Vermont's moderate Republican Sen. James Jeffords easily won nomination to a new term, as did Wisconsin's Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl. Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman -- also running for vice president -- faced no primary challenges.

Governors, too, got a virtual pass. Democratic Vermont Gov. Howard Dean easily won his nomination for a fifth full term, and will face Republican Ruth Dwyer in the fall. New Hampshire's two-term Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen won her nomination and will face former Sen. Gordon Humphrey.

In Arizona, a five-way race for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Republican Rep. Matt Salmon included Tom Liddy, son of Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy.

Also in Arizona, the city of Prescott voted on a referendum that would overturn a ban of the traditional July Fourth water fights, enacted after complaints that the fun had turned too rowdy.

Brown County in Wisconsin approved a sales tax to renovate and expand Lambeau Field, the home of the beloved Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned team in the NFL.

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