- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

NEW YORK First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Democratic challenger Mark McMahon with ease in this state's Democratic primary yesterday, overcoming a minor bump on her road to the U.S. Senate.
The first lady took 80 percent of the vote to Mr. McMahon's 20 percent with 67 percent reporting. Turnout from the state's 4.9 million registered Democrats appeared to be less than the usual 20 percent to 25 percent for a primary.
"We set out to force a primary so we could put power in the hands of the voters and we accomplished that when we submitted our petition," Mr. McMahon said.
The Manhattan surgeon received 44,000 signatures to gain access to the ballot after the state Democratic Party refused to recognize him at its state convention in May. He needed 15,000 to gain a ballot spot.
"Mark is a local guy made good, went to Georgetown and all that pizzazz," said Jim McSherry, a retired New York court officer who checked polls yesterday.
The first lady refused to acknowledge her primary opponent during the campaign. Instead, she has focused on this evening's debate with Rep. Rick Lazio, her Republican general-election opponent.
A Marist College poll of 516 likely voters gave Mrs. Clinton 50 percent and the Long Island congressman 47 percent of the total support. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 points. In a Marist poll in June, they were tied at 42 percent.
A Quinnipiac College poll of 803 voters gave Mrs. Clinton 49 percent and Mr. Lazio 44 The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 points. In Quinnipiac's June poll, the two candidates were tied at 44 percent.
A weekend Zogby poll found the first lady leads Mr. Lazio in New York City, 66 percent to 27 percent. Mr. Lazio leads Mrs. Clinton among upstate voters, 49 to 42 percent.
The date of the debate was changed to accommodate the primary results. The original Sept. 11 date was switched to today to ensure Mrs. Clinton was fully seated.
"I think it's presumptuous to assume she has no opponent," said McMahon campaign manager Jon Fletcher. "Everyone should know there is a primary and everyone should vote. Why did they refuse to tell anyone?"
Mrs. Clinton yesterday morning preceded her husband, President Clinton, into the voting booth at an elementary school in Chappaqua, N.Y., the Clintons' hometown in the state since January.
Mr. McMahon spent his own money on the campaign, and as a result, he had no ad buys and only limited public appearances.
His campaign was run out of a ground-floor office that has been home for years to the Jim McManus Democratic Club, a third-generation, 100-year-old club that often has supported inside-party challengers.
"We're regular Democrats, but we really wanted to get somebody to nominate somebody else," explained Mr. McManus. "They just wouldn't allow it."
Nine states and the District held contests on the last big primary day of 2000. Among the closely watched races:
Selma, Ala., elected its first black mayor yesterday, unseating a reformed segregationist. Businessman James Perkins defeated Joe Smitherman by about 60 percent to 40 percent.
In Vermont, where homosexuals now can be united in civil ceremonies, a dozen Republicans who voted for the law faced strong primary threats.
In Long Island, N.Y., five candidates sought Mr. Lazio's open seat, with the GOP backing Islip Town Clerk Joan Johnson, who, if elected, would be the first black female Republican in the House.
In Arizona, a five-way race for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Rep. Matt Salmon included Tom Liddy, son of Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy.

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