A Primary Fit For Prime Time

Fred Tuttle never called himself a serious candidate but Republican voters did take his message seriously, reports Correspondent Anson Tebbetts of CBS affiliate WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt.

The 79-year-old dairy farmer-turned-movie actor poked fun at his opponent, Jack McMullen, who moved to Vermont a little over a year ago.

McMullen could never dodge the residency issue. He spent nearly $300,000 trying to get elected to the U.S. Senate, but Tuttle claimed to have spent only $16. Tuttle enjoyed enormous recognition because of his part in a movie.

Tuttle's victory was the highlight of primary elections in four states, including Arizona, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. Nominations for four U.S. Senate seats and four governorships were on the line.

"I don't know of another place where a farmer can beat a lawyer; where a poor man can beat a millionaire; where a 10th-grade dropout can beat a Harvard man; where $16 buys more than $400,000," Tuttle said in a brief victory speech.

Actually, Tuttle's campaign spending was nearly $200: he rented portable toilets for a nickel-a-plate fund-raising dinner at his house.

With 93 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Tuttle had 27,018 votes, or 55 percent. McMullen, who loaned his campaign $227,000 of his own money, had 22,148 votes, or 45 percent.

Tuttle made his name in the movie Man With a Plan, in which he appeared as a retired dairy farmer who runs for Congress because he needs the money. Tuttle's folksy, grass-roots campaign gains steam, and he beats the entrenched incumbent.

This summer, the film's director asked Tuttle to run for Senate to promote the movie and protest McMullen's big-money campaign.

As his victory was toasted with soda and cider at the town hall in Tunbridge, Tuttle, in denim overalls and a blue cap that reads "FRED," said he would stay in the race against Leahy, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination for a fifth term.

Tuttle likes Leahy and has suggested he wouldn't campaign against him.

"After everybody's voted for me, how am I going to get out?" he said.

Two other senators ran opposed Tuesday: Democrat Russell Feingold, seeking a second term in Wisconsin, and Republican John McCain, a possible presidential contender in 2000 who is seeking a third term in Arizona. In November, Feingold will face Republican Rep. Mark Neumann, and McCain goes against Democratic environmental lawyer Ed Ranger.

In other developments:

  • Republican Sen. Judd Gregg in New Hampshire had a primary challenge in his bid for a second term, but he easily defeated state Rep. Phil Weber. Gregg faces Democrat George Condodemetraky this fall.
  • In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jane Hull faced voters for the first time since replacing Fife Symington, who resigned a year ago after his conviction for bank fraud. The low-key Mrs. Hull got 77 percent of the vote, easily turning way a political newcomer and a former TV weatherman.
  • Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
  • Another Republican governor, Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, beat token opposition and was nominated for a state-record fourth term a milestone that could boost a possible presidential bid in 2000.
  • Also in Wisconsin, attorney Ed Garvey, a former leader of the pro football players' union, easily won the Democratic nomination over state Sen. Gary George.
  • Two popular Democratic governors, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Howard Dean in Vermont, were unopposed Tuesday and heavily favored to win new terms in November.
  • In Wisconsin's 2nd District, which includes liberal-leaning Madison and surrounding rural counties, the retirement of GOP Rep. Scott Klug set off a primary scramble among six Republicans and four Democrats.
  • State Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the only openly gay member of Wisconsin's state Legislature, won the Democratic primary. She will face former Insurance Commissioner Josephine Musser, who narrowly defeated Ron Greer, a Christian fundamentalist who crusades against homosexuality.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report