- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006


Republican Brian Bilbray was the early leader over Democrat Francine Busby in yesterday’s closely watched California special election to replace former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Mr. Bilbray, a former congressman, had 20,448 votes (51 percent) to 17,329 (43 percent) for Mrs. Busby with less than 12 percent of precincts reporting late last night. Immigration had become a key issue in the contest over the seat vacated when Cunningham, a Republican, was sent to prison on federal corruption charges.

Also yesterday, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley easily beat back a Republican primary challenge from Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore on Tuesday, while Democratic former Gov. Don Siegelman trailed in his comeback fight against the state’s first female lieutenant governor. Alabama voters passed a ban on same-sex “marriage” by a 4-to-1 margin.

As eight states held primaries, New Jersey Republicans chose Tom Kean Jr., the son of a popular former governor, to challenge Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez in the fall.

Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota also held primaries.

The biggest race was the special election in San Diego to fill the Cunningham seat, as political observers looked for clues to the public mood ahead of this fall’s midterm elections.

Money and attention from around the country poured into the California race, with the Democrats seeing a rich opportunity to capture a solidly Republican district.

In New Jersey, Mr. Kean easily defeated a more conservative candidate, winning three of every four votes. Mr. Menendez, appointed to his seat after former Sen. Jon Corzine became governor, beat a little-known challenger.

In the weeks leading up to Alabama’s gubernatorial primary, polls showed Mr. Riley with a growing lead on Mr. Moore, the former state chief justice who became a hero to many religious conservatives in 2003 when he was ousted over his refusal to remove the Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

That same year, Mr. Riley saw his popularity plummet when he unsuccessfully sought a $1.2 billion tax increase. But his standing rose with the state economy, and this year he helped pass a tax cut for the working poor.

With nearly half of precincts reporting, Mr. Riley had 158,779 votes, or 64 percent, to Mr. Moore’s 89,038 votes, or 36 percent. Among the Democrats, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley was ahead with 157,337 votes, or 60 percent, against Mr. Siegelman with 94,524 votes, or 36 percent. Mr. Siegelman spent Election Day standing trial on corruption charges stemming from his previous term as governor.

Another corruption case figured in Montana’s Senate primary, where Republican Sen. Conrad Burns sought the nomination for a fourth term. After his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff became known, Mr. Burns saw his popularity fall, and Democrats John Morrison, the state auditor, and state Senate President Jon Tester jumped into the race.

With just 5 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Tester was leading Mr. Morrison by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

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