- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

From combined dispatches

Sen. John Kerry yesterday notched victories in four Democratic presidential primaries yesterday, while at least one Democratic congressman lost his seat in the Texas primary.

Voters went to the polls yesterday in Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, with Mr. Kerry winning those states Democratic primaries with majorities ranging from 66 percent to 79 percent. The Massachusetts Democrat all but clinched his partys nomination in last weeks Super Tuesday primaries.

In Texas, Democratic Rep. Chris Bell lost the primary in his new district, while another incumbent, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, struggled in his. A year ago, the states Republican-controlled legislature reconfigured district lines to favor the GOP.

Republican legislators redrew the districts of Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Mr. Bell to add more Republican voters, so both men decided to run in heavily Democratic districts instead. But the two Democratic incumbents are white, and a majority of the voters in their new districts are not.

With more than one-third of precincts reporting, Al Green, former head of the Houston NAACP, led Mr. Bell with 8,443 votes, or 67 percent, to 3,851 votes, or 31 percent for the freshman congressman.

Mr. Rodriguez of San Antonio was locked in a close battle with former ally Henry Cuellar, a former Texas secretary of state, in an overwhelmingly Hispanic district from San Antonio to the Mexican border. With 65 percent of precincts reporting, about 250 votes separated the two.

Mr. Doggett easily defeated former state Judge Leticia Hinojosa.

Rep. Ralph M. Hall, who left the Democratic Party and became a Republican in January, easily defeated two lesser-known challengers a day after riding with President Bush on Air Force One to a Houston fund-raiser.

Mr. Halls defection landed him critical backing from party leaders, who called at least one primary opponent and asked him to leave the race.

The bitter battle over redistricting in Texas led to two walkouts by Democrats in the state legislature. In November, Republicans hope to win at least 22 of Texas 32 congressional seats, which are split evenly between the parties.

The Texas primary originally had been scheduled for last week, but legal wrangling over the redistricting pushed the date back from Super Tuesday a week ago. A federal court ultimately ruled the new districts legal. Democrats appealed to the Supreme Court, which is not expected to rule before November.

Campaigning for yesterdays presidential primaries, Mr. Kerry wrapped up a swing through Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, trying to build support in a region that has not been friendly to Democrats in recent presidential elections.

Mr. Kerry yesterday stopped in West Tampa, Fla., where he mingled with a group of 5-year-olds playing on a swing set. Kristen Hamlin wasnt too impressed.

“I saw the president of the United States on TV, and hes our president,” Kristin told Mr. Kerry.

For his part yesterday, Mr. Bush won all four Republican primaries and mathematically clinched the GOP nomination for president by bringing his delegate total to 1,309, surpassing the 1,255 needed. He faced no serious opposition.

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