- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

DALLAS — Gov. Rick Perry easily won the Texas Republican Party’s nomination for governor yesterday, while former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay held off three Republican challengers in his toughest primary race in more than two decades.

With 70 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Perry had almost 85 percent of the vote in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

On the Democratic side, Chris Bell of Houston defeated Bob Gammage of Austin by 253,020 votes to 111,517, or 64 percent to 28 percent, with about 75 percent of precincts tallied. A third candidate, Houston businessman Rashad Jafer, got 8 percent, or 31,035 votes.

Mr. Bell is an ex-congressmen with limited funding and is figured to be an underdog against Mr. Perry in this heavily Republican state in November.

Also as expected, Mr. DeLay won his bid for a 12th term representing the state’s 22nd Congressional District. With approximately 41 percent of the precincts counted, he had 13,061 votes (66 percent), comfortably ahead of leading challenger Tom Campbell, who had 5,134 votes (26 percent).

Although he was pushed to campaign hard in preceding weeks, Mr. DeLay spoke confidently yesterday as he met with a group of supporters at a Sugar Land country club, then flew back to Washington, where a fundraiser was held in his honor last night.

Voting with his wife, Christine, Mr. DeLay said he expected Republicans to “come in droves” to send a message to his detractors.

“My constituents get it,” he told reporters, alluding to his money-laundering indictment in Travis County — charges Mr. DeLay and his backers consider a political vendetta by District Attorney Ronnie Earle in Austin.

“They know what a leftist abuse of power that is,” the congressman said.

Mr. Campbell, a lawyer, talked often about “bringing honesty back to government,” but Mr. DeLay reminded voters of the funds he guided back to his home district.

Mr. DeLay will face Nick Lampson, a well-funded former congressman who was ousted from office in 2004 under the Texas redistricting alignment engineered by Mr. DeLay. Another ex-congressman, conservative Steve Stockman, is considering entering the race as an independent.

President Bush, with first lady Laura Bush, flew from Washington to Crawford to vote yesterday afternoon at a local fire station.

Houston lawyer Barbara Radnofsky finished first in yesterday’ race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate but will need to win in an April 11 runoff to secure a place on the November ballot against Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison.

With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Mrs. Radnofsky had 172,843 votes (44.6 percent) to Gene Kelly’s 144,050 (37.1 percent) and Darrel Hunter’s 70,933 (18.3 percent).

Mrs. Hutchison was unopposed in the Republican primary yesterday, and she will be heavily favored in November.

Turnout was somewhat lower than usual, even though there were many strongly contested races, including those for judges, district attorneys and state legislators. Secretary of State Roger Williams predicted that 13 percent of Texas’ registered voters would cast ballots.

Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, said there was no statewide race interesting enough to draw big numbers.

The Democratic race to oppose Mr. Perry Nov. 7 was “flying completely below the radar,” Mr. Riddlesperger added.

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