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Capps Claims California Victory

In an election touted as a bellwether for the nation, the Republican Party lost its bid to recapture a seat in Congress as voters chose Democrat Lois Capps to replace her late husband.

The widow of Representative Walter Capps defeated Republican state assemblyman Tom Bordonaro Jr. Tuesday, ending a campaign dominated by advertising from special-interest groups. She received 82,074 votes, or 53 percent, to 69,764 votes, or 45 percent, for the two-term lawmaker.

In Texas, Republican Gov. George W. Bush was easily nominated for a second term, brushing aside first-time candidate R.C. Crawford. Though Bush insists he is eyeing only re-election, many predict he will make a presidential run in 2000.

The California election was closely watched by national groups as Democrats prepare an effort to regain control of the House of Representatives in November's midterm elections.

Capps, 60, will serve the rest of her husband's term. Walter Capps died in October after serving only eight months. Capps defeated Republican Rep. Andrea Seastrand in November 1996 to win a seat that had been held by the GOP for 48 years.

In Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, the airwaves were flooded during the campaign with commercials paid for by Washington, D.C. groups opposing late-term abortions and supporting political term limits and business interests. At times, it seemed as if the candidates' voices had been drowned out in the 22nd District.

Capps told supporters their voices had been heard. "We are sending such a strong message about outside interest groups, aren't we?" she said.

Bordonaro, a 38-year-old former rancher and tax preparer who is paralyzed from an auto accident said he was still trying to determine what happened. "It's all about turnout in these special elections," he said. "Somehow we did not get our voters out to the polls."

Bush, meanwhile, dismissed the attention he has gotten since he topped a presidential straw poll of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week. He insisted he is focused only on bucking Texas' long history of deposing incumbent governors.

He will face state land commissioner Garry Mauro, a Democrat who ran both of President Clinton's campaigns in Texas. If he wins, Bush will be the first Texas governor elected to consecutive terms since 1974.

In other political developments Tuesday:

  • In New York, City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone formally launched his candidacy for governor. He joins a crowded Democratic field seeking to challenge Republican Gov. George Pataki.

  • Former Representative Steve Stockman, who called President Clinton an abortionist and accused the government of "executing" members of the Branch Davidian cult at Waco in 1993, lost a GOP primary bid for a vacant seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. The three-member body regulates the state's oil and gas industry.

  • ormer Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox easily won the Democratic nomination for a return to office. Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson and former state Supreme Court justice John Cornyn meet in an April 14 runoff for the GOP nomination.

  • In Tulsa, Okla., Mayor Susan Savage defeated her Republican challenger to earn a second term. The Democratic incumbent had 39,431 votes, or 54 percent, and former Tulsa County Republican chairman Terry Simonson had 33,554 votes, or 46 percent.

    By AMANDA COVARRUBIAS, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed