- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

UPDATED:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former mayor Marion Barry easily held off four challengers seeking his Ward 8 D.C. Council seat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, 16-year council veteran Carol Schwartz was facing the loss of her at-large seat to challenger Patrick Mara in the Republican primary. Mara led Schwartz by more than 750 votes with 99 percent of the precincts reporting.

Besides Barry, the three other Democratic incumbents facing challenges Tuesday all appeared to be victorious: Jacks Evans in Ward 2; Muriel Bowser in Ward 4; and Yvette Alexander in Ward 7. At-large council member Kwame Brown ran unopposed.

There was some confusion late Tuesday over an unusually high number of write-in ballots in some races. The numbers were later revised, and D.C. elections board spokesman Daniel Murphy said officials were investigating.

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At-large D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, a Republican icon in the city, was in danger late Tuesday of losing in one of several primaries across the country that featured as much celebrity as political experience.

Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, clinched his second consecutive term on the council and fourth term overall in an easy win over challenger Sandra Seegars, a neighborhood advisory commissioner and former head of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Al Franken — an author, former radio-show host and ex-“Saturday Night Live” cast member — won the Democratic nomination for a Senate seat against six opponents.

Mr. Franken spent millions on the race. His opponent in November will be incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who easily beat his primary opponent — an expatriate living in Italy.

Mr. Franken’s celebrity has helped and hurt him. His coast-to-coast recognition enabled him to amass an impressive bankroll for a first-time candidate, but archives full of racy material provided ammunition to Republicans and his most visible Democratic rival, lawyer Priscilla Lord Faris.

Miss Faris, part of a well-regarded family in state Democratic politics, criticized Mr. Franken for “angry and offensive public behavior” and said he would be too easy a target for Mr. Coleman and his allies.

Six other states also held primaries Tuesday, including New York, where another former TV personality, Kevin Powell, a writer and activist who was once a cast member on MTV’s “Real World,” came up short in his challenge to 13-term Rep. Edolphus Towns, Brooklyn Democrat.

The other states holding primaries were Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

In key New Hampshire contests, Republican Sen. John E. Sununu and former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen easily won their primaries and resumed focus on their hard-fought rematch of 2002.

Shortly before 10 p.m., Mrs. Schwartz, the lone Republican on the council, did a “reality check” and acknowledged that she might concede the race to challenger Patrick Mara, said Schwartz campaign manager Kirstan Higgins.

At that time the council member, who has served three consecutive terms, was trailing Mr. Mara by 734 votes after ballots were counted from 134 of the District’s 143 precincts.

At 11 p.m., the D.C. Republican Committee issued a release proclaiming Mr. Mara the winner, although a volunteer at Mrs. Schwartz’s campaign headquarters could not confirm that Mrs. Schwartz had conceded.

Mr. Barry’s political career has been plagued by scandal, including his 1990 arrest in a D.C. hotel room on charges of using and possessing crack cocaine. He was convicted later that year on a misdemeanor cocaine-possession charge.

Mr. Barry’s critics complained that he had grown ineffective during his tenure and had squandered his influence, but many residents remained loyal.

“He is the only person who comes to Ward 8 and does nice things for kids and seniors,” said resident Katrina Smith, 52, said of Mr. Barry, 72. “He ain’t too old to know what the residents need.”

Ward 2 incumbent Jack Evans was leading challenger Cary Silverman as of 10 p.m., but volunteers on both sides were examining questionable voter-turnout numbers after more than 1,500 write-in votes were counted.

“If there was a write-in campaign, somebody would have known about it,” said Evans spokesman Keith Carbone.

The winner of the race will face Republican challenger Christina Culver, vice president of the District-based lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide, in the general election Nov. 4.

Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, and Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, also held their seats against multiple challengers.

The council members filled seats vacated last year by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, both Democrats.

Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, was unopposed in the primary, but will likely face several challengers in the general election in November.

Voter turnout was fairly low, as is typical in primary elections in which mayoral candidates are not running, though some poll workers reported seeing numbers much lower than expected.

In the 2002 primary election — a year in which former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, ran for re-election — total voter turnout was 34.5 percent, compared with 36.7 percent in the general election.

But only 1.4 percent of registered Republicans turned out for the primary.

A primary election for council seats in 2004 also saw only 8.4 percent turnout for 28,900 registered Republicans in the city.

Total voter turnout for that year’s general presidential election also easily eclipsed turnout for the primary, nearly 60 percent to roughly 23 percent, respectively.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

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