Scant opposition for senators in state primaries

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Sens. Jim Bunning and Blanche Lincoln easily won their parties' nominations in Kentucky and Arkansas primaries Tuesday, as voters in Oregon picked a challenger to run against another popular Senate incumbent, Ron Wyden.

In other races, Republicans in Kentucky chose a candidate to take on actor George Clooney's father for a seat in the U.S. House, while Oregon voters considered whether to re-elect two county commissioners who decided in secret meetings to allow gay marriages.

In the Kentucky Senate race, Democratic state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo was picked to challenge Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher looking to win a second term. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mongiardo won 65 percent of the vote, defeating David Williams, who had 35 percent.

Bunning, a Republican who has raised $4.6 million already, had only token opposition and, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, had 84 percent of the vote.

Earlier this year, Bunning's campaign apologized after he said at a GOP dinner that Mongiardo, the son of Italian immigrants, looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. The campaign said the remark was a joke.

In Arkansas, Republican state Sen. Jim Holt beat out two other candidates to win his party's nomination to challenge Lincoln, a first-term Democratic senator who has raised more than $5 million for her re-election campaign. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Holt had 68 percent of the vote.

Lincoln, a former congresswoman, faced a little-known, underfunded candidate in her bid to hold onto a seat that has had only four occupants since 1932, including Dale Bumpers and J. William Fulbright. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, she had 83 percent of the vote.

Six Oregon Republicans sought the nod to run against Wyden, a popular Democrat who has held the post since a special election in 1996 to replace disgraced Sen. Bob Packwood. Wyden, running for his second full term, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

In other primaries:

-- Geoff Davis, a manufacturing consultant, was picked by Republicans to take on Nick Clooney, a media personality in the Cincinnati area and the father of the former "ER" star. While the elder Clooney opposes abortion and gun control, Republicans have threatened to use his son's more liberal views against him in the fall. Davis said Tuesday that Clooney is "raising Hollywood money by the truckloads."

Elsewhere in Kentucky, Republicans chose state Sen. Tom Buford to challenge U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, a Democrat who won a special election in February to represent the Lexington area.

-- In Oregon, Iranian-American Goli Ameri won the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. David Wu, who is running for a fourth term in Congress and remains the favorite in November.

Two Multnomah County commissioners, Lisa Naito and Maria Rojo, were up for re-election. They were among four commissioners in the liberal bastion that is home to Oregon's largest city, Portland, who voted in secret to allow gay marriage. If they won, they could still face a recall effort by opponents of gay marriage. More than 3,000 same-sex couples tied the knot until April 20, when a judge halted the weddings. The matter is likely to end up before the state Supreme Court.

-- Twenty-two candidates competed to replace Portland Mayor Vera Katz, who is not seeking a fourth term. The top two vote-getters would probably meet in a runoff in November.

--In Arkansas, Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen lost in his effort to become the first black elected to the state's highest court. A state board voted in 2002 to admonish Griffen for speaking out about minority hiring practices at the University of Arkansas. The winner Tuesday in the race for chief justice, Associate Justice Jim Hannah, was in the minority when the state Supreme Court voted later to drop the reprimand.

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