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Election Drama In Nebraska

A tearful Rep. Jon Christensen struggled for words after learning he had been trounced in his bid to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

"Sometimes you learn more from a loss than a win, and I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for us," said Christensen, whose fiancee, former Miss America Tara Holland, was at his side.

Once the front-runner, the 35-year-old Christensen finished third in a five-candidate field Tuesday. Lincoln Mayor Mike Johanns easily won the GOP nomination, stunning the conservative two-term congressman who gave up his seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee to run for governor.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Johanns had 86,041 votes (40 percent). State Auditor John Breslow was second with 64,127 votes (30 percent), while Christensen had 60,093 votes (28 percent). Two other candidates each received 1 percent.

Christensen's conservative rhetoric, including his statement that his fiancee had saved herself for marriage and his vow not to appoint homosexuals to positions of leadership, made him stand out. And his last-minute attacks against Johanns apparently backfired.

Christensen was harshly criticized from within his own party after distributing a flier last week accusing Johanns of not doing enough to remove an "obscene and racist" program from Lincoln's public-access cable television station.

Christensen, a fundamentalist Christian, said the flier would "be a rallying cry for social conservatives."

Johanns vehemently disputed the allegations. The father of two said he had tried to stop the program, which showed a man urinating, but could not because it was protected by federal law.

The GOP candidates spent a record $5.6 million this time, more than twice the previous state mark for a primary. Breslow, who heads a chain of welding supply stores, spent $3 million.

The Democratic race was much tamer:

  • Bill Hoppner, 48, easily won the nomination, eight years after he lost a similar bid by just 42 votes to now-Gov. Ben Nelson, who cannot seek a third term under state law. Hoppner defeated former state lawmaker Jim McFarland, 50, and two other candidates.

In the race for Christensen's Omaha-area House seat:
  • City Councilman Lee Terry won the five-way Republican primary.
  • Former local TV news anchorman and Entertainment Tonight reporter Michael Scott beat three rivals for the Democratic nod.

Elections in West Virginia:
  • Primaries were held Tuesday, though the only statewide race was to fill a vacant seat on the state Supreme Court.
  • The state's three Democratic congressmen - Alan Mollohan, Bob Wise, and Nick Rahall - were easily renominated over token opposition. That amounts to re-election, since no Republicans are challenging them in the heavily Democratic state.

Two mayoral races in New Jersey:
  • In Newark, the stte's largest city, Mayor Sharpe James easily won a fourth term.
  • In Atlantic City, Mayor James Whelan won a third term with 54 percent of the vote.

Written by Barry Bedlan