Voters In Eight States Head To Polls
California races draw national attention again
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 2) -- Voters in California and seven other states head to the polls Tuesday, in the most active day yet in the 1998 primary season.
California, often a bellwether in matters political, has drawn national attention because of its hotly contested, open gubernatorial primary and because of a controversial measure that would end most bilingual education programs in the state.
The vote also brings an end to the most expensive primary campaign in U.S. history, with spending in the top races -- governor, Senate and two propositions -- eclipsing $100 million, an amount usually reserved for presidential elections. Two Democratic governor hopefuls alone have spent an estimated $50 million from their personal finances, with apparently little to show for it in the polls.
Two-term Gov. Pete Wilson is barred by law from seeking a third term, leaving candidates in both parties scrambling to become the next governor.
Tuesday's open primary also will allow voters to cross over and vote for any candidate regardless of party, with the top vote-getter in each party advancing to the general election.
Lt. Gov. Gray Davis is the front-runner in the campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor. Opinion polls show Davis running about 10 percentage points ahead of his rivals, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman and wealthy businessman Al Checchi.
Checchi, the former co-chairman of Northwest Airlines, has spent more than $30 million of his personal fortune running for governor, the vast majority of it on television advertising.
Harman, wife of wealthy stereo equipment magnate Sidney Harman, has spent more than $20 million, mostly from the Harman fortune. Davis has spent an estimated $12 million on his campaign.
Attorney General Dan Lungren faces no major opposition for the Republican nomination.
Voters also will decide the fate of Prop. 227, a measure aimed at teaching students almost exclusively in English after a one-year transition class. It appears likely to win because of support across demographic lines. The measure is popular in both Republican and Democratic households, and is roughly breaking even among minority voters, many of whom feel their children are disadvantaged by the current system.
Another hotly debated ballot measure, Prop. 226, would require unions to get permission of members to spend dues money on political activity, and Republicans will pick between state Treasurer Matt Fong and businessman Darrell Issa to run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in the fall.
Along with the Golden State, there are federal, state and local races in Alabama, Iowa, New Mexico, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.
Some of the other races of note around the country:
Alabama: Gov. Fob James, seeking a second term, is in a tough primary fight with businessman Winton Blount. A runoff is likely, with the winner to face Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman in November.
Iowa: Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is retiring, and competing for the Democratic nomination are state Sen. Tom Vilsack and a former state supreme court justice, Mark McCormick. The winner will face ex-Rep. Jim Ross Lightfoot, who faces only token opposition in the GOP primary.
New Mexico: Former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez leads a field of Democrats who want to challenge Gov. Gary E. Johnson, who has no primary challengers. The other race drawing some attention is the northern congressional district held by freshman Rep. Bill Redmond, a Republican.
Mississippi: Rep. Mike Parker, a former Democrat who switched parties three years ago, is leaving office, and a slew of candidates hope to replace him in Mississippi's 4th congressional district.
South Dakota: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is seeking re-election this year. But he has no primary opposition and no credible GOP challengers waiting in the fall.