Republican Rep. Steve Pearce and Democrat Rep. Tom Udall won their parties' nominations for New Mexico's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, while New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg strolled past primary opposition in his bid to join the winner on Capitol Hill.
Udall was unopposed Tuesday for his party's Senate nomination while Republicans had a bruising two-way primary fight for the seat being vacated by six-term GOP incumbent Pete Domenici.
Pearce defeated Rep. Heather Wilson with 51 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. The party faithful selected a conservative - rather than the more moderate Wilson - to run against Udall, who won two statewide races as attorney general before his election to Congress in 1998.
During the campaign, Pearce branded Wilson as a liberal for her voting record, such as supporting a Democratic plan to expand a children's health care program. She called herself a "common sense conservative" who would be the more electable Republican in the general election against Udall.
In New Jersey, Lautenberg, 84, won a commanding re-nomination victory, easily besting a challenge from Rep. Rob Andrews and Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello. Andrews often reminded voters that Lautenberg would be nearly 91 by the end of a fifth term, but Lautenberg insisted age wasn't an issue.
"They weren't looking at my age," Lautenberg said of voters, who gave the incumbent an 59-35 percent edge over Andrews with 99 percent of precincts reporting. "They don't care how old I am."
Lautenberg will compete in November against a former House member, Dick Zimmer, who defeated both a state senator and a business professor in the Republican primary.
In other contests across the nation:
- In South Dakota, residents of Union County approved rezoning farm land for what would be the first new U.S. oil refinery in more than 30 years.
- In California, voters passed some limits on government home seizures but rejected sweeping changes to property rights laws. Residents approved Proposition 99 and defeated Proposition 98, which were both intended to limit government's authority to force Californians to sell their homes for private development projects such as shopping malls, hotels and new housing.
Proposition 98 would have added protections for businesses and farms and phased out rent control. Its defeat was a victory for the California League of Cities and environmentalists who placed the narrower Proposition 99 on the ballot as an alternative.
Proposition 98 arose from a national backlash to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005, when the court found that a Connecticut redevelopment authority had the right to seize private property for hotels, shopping centers and other private developments. That decision marked a departure from the traditional use of eminent domain, which is typically used when governments build roads, schools or other public projects.
- In Sacramento, former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson forced a runoff election for mayor against the two-term incumbent, Heather Fargo. The candidates needed more than 50 percent to win the contest outright; Johnson led his opponent 47 percent to 40 percent. Fargo's election night party turned tragic when a massive tree branch crashed down and sent a supporter to the hospital.
- Voters in Mendocino County, north of the Bay Area, agreed to repeal a groundbreaking law that allowed residents to grow up to 25 marijuana plants for medical or recreational use.
- In San Diego, Mayor Jerry Sanders, a moderate Republican, thumped a wealthy, self-financed rival who outspent him 10-to-1 in a lively contest to run the nation's eighth-largest city.
- California's most heated congressional campaign saw state Sen. Tom McClintock beating former Rep. Doug Ose, a real estate businessman, to claim the Republican nomination in Northern California's 4th Congressional District. McClintock now battles Democrat Charlie Brown to win the seat held by Republican Rep. John Doolittle, who is retiring as he is being investigated in an influence-peddling scandal.
- In Alabama, Democrats nominated Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright to try to succeed eight-term Republican Terry Everett. The Republican field of six was led by state Rep. Jay Love, but he was headed for a July 15 runoff with state Sen. Harri Anne Smith because both of them received less than half the vote.
- In Iowa, six-term congressman Leonard Boswell put down a challenge from a more liberal opponent, largely by drawing attention to Ed Fallon's support for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential race. Fallon conceded the endorsement was probably his "worst political decision" but said he had repeatedly apologized for backing Nader. And he noted that Al Gore narrowly won Iowa.