Thursday, November 22, 2001

From combined dispatches
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. The newest Republican member of the House says he is eager to back the White House on national security issues.
“We’re anxious to get to Washington to support President Bush,” optometrist John Boozman said after handily defeating Democratic rival Mike Hathorn in Tuesday’s special election.
“We’re going to work on issues we’ve talked about, a prescription drug benefit for seniors, the high cost of health care. Security is tops on the list,” Mr. Boozman said in his victory speech.
A centrist Republican with little previous experience in elected office, Mr. Boozman got 56 percent of the vote against 42 percent for Mr. Hathorn, a 28-year-old Democratic state legislator.
In an unexpected reminder of last year’s presidential election, an attorney for the Hathorn campaign challenged 308 absentee ballots from Benton County after the polls closed Tuesday.
“Looks like Mike Hathorn picked up a couple of tricks while he was Al Gore’s [state] campaign manager and is trying to steal the election,” said Marty Ryall, executive director of the state Republican Party.
But the election wasn’t close enough to steal. Mr. Boozman got 52,894 votes to 40,137 for Mr. Hathorn.
The election was required to fill the House seat vacated by former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson, whom Mr. Bush appointed as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Mr. Boozman, 50, will serve the remaining 13 months of Mr. Hutchinson’s term and comes up for re-election in November 2002.
Republicans have held the seat in the northwest Arkansas district since 1967.
Democrats had considered Mr. Hathorn their best chance to win the seat since a young Bill Clinton lost by 6,294 votes to John Paul Hammerschmidt in 1974.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, both campaigned on Mr. Boozman’s behalf, and Mr. Bush sent a letter to voters in the district.
The Hathorn campaign benefitted from $100,000 worth of television ads paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Voter turnout was light in the rare holiday-week election, with fewer than a quarter of eligible voters making it to the polls.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Mr. Hathorn had criticized Mr. Boozman’s support for a Social Security plan that includes setting aside some funds in private accounts.
Mr. Boozman, whose only previous political experience was on a local school board and county fair board, had accused Mr. Hathorn of not strongly supporting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Also running in the election were Green Party candidate Sarah Marsh, 25, an architecture intern, and Freedom Party candidate Ralph Forbes, 61, a former American Nazi Party member who ran David Duke’s 1988 presidential campaign in Arkansas.

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