GOP Senator Not Hurt By Ethics Concerns

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Voters in eight states went to the polls in primary elections to set the stage for this fall's midterm elections.

With national polls showing deep dissatisfaction with Congress, President Bush and the war in Iraq, Democrats hoped to gather momentum for the coming campaign.

In Montana, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns won 73% of the vote in his bid to be nominated for a fourth term, and will face the Democratic nominee, State Senate President Jon Tester, in November.

Burns fell from popularity over his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and was challenged within his party by several candidates.

Tester, a Big Sandy farmer, defeated John Morrison, state auditor. Tester had said he, not Morrison, would be best able to take on Burns on the issue of ethics.

Burns has chalked up criticism to the "Eastern liberal press." He received about $150,000 in donations from Abramoff, his clients and his associates, which he has since returned or given to charity. In addition, some of Burns' former aides worked for Abramoff, and two current aides went to the 2001 Super Bowl in the lobbyist's jet.

Burns criticized Democrats for attacks on the Abramoff issue, but said Montana voters would tire of negative campaigning by November.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley easily beat back a Republican primary challenge from the judge who refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from that state's judicial building.

Roy Moore, 59, was making his first race for public office since a state judicial court ousted him as Alabama's chief justice in 2003 for refusing a federal judge's order to remove his 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument from the judicial building's rotunda.

Riley outpolled Moore, 63% to 36%. "God's will has been done," Moore told supporters.

In other Alabama races, former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman lost his comeback fight against the state's first female lieutenant governor, Lucy Baxley, and voters sent Republican George Wallace Jr. into a runoff with attorney Luther Strange in the race for lieutenant governor.

Since May 1, Siegelman has been on trial on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice during his terms as governor and lieutenant governor. The ongoing trial includes two of his former Cabinet members and former HealthSouth Chairman Richard M. Scrushy.

Siegelman was stuck in court much of the time while Baxley crisscrossed the state. She rarely mentioned his trial but noted that there had been no scandals during her years in public office.

"We care about ethics in our state," she said Tuesday night.

Alabama voters also passed a ban on gay marriage by a 4-to-1 ratio, making it the 20th state to pass such an amendment to its constitution.

In New Jersey, Republicans chose Tom Kean Jr., the son of a popular former governor, to challenge Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez in the fall.

Kean -- who critics said needed a convincing win to be a real challenger in the fall -- easily defeated a more conservative candidate, winning three of every four votes.

With almost all of precincts reporting, the son of former Gov. Tom Kean defeated opponent John Ginty, a candidate put up by conservatives who didn't like the younger Kean's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

Kean has been viewed as the GOP's best Senate hope in years in a state that has not elected a Republican to that body since 1972.

Meanwhile, Menendez, appointed to his seat after former Sen. Jon Corzine became governor, beat a little-known challenger.

Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver won the close three-way race for the Democratic nomination to succeed Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Culver will face U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, the only candidate for the GOP nomination, in the general election.

Vilsack, mentioned as a possible 2008 presidential candidate, is stepping down after two terms.

In Mississippi, Chuck Espy, a state lawmaker and nephew of Mike Espy, Mississippi's first black congressman since Reconstruction and President Clinton's first secretary of Agriculture, lost his primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, as expected.

In South Dakota, Democrat Jack Billion defeated Dennis Wiese to challenge Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican, in the fall. Rounds is heavily favored to win another term.

Republican Allen McCulloch was nominated to challenge New Mexico's Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman in the fall.

Also in Alabama, a Democratic candidate for attorney general who denies the Holocaust occurred and holds white supremacist views lost a close race in Tuesday's primary.

Party officials learned late in the campaign that Larry Darby, founder of the Atheist Law Center, was a Holocaust denier, and that he recently gave a speech in New Jersey to a white supremacist group. They said they could not remove him from the ballot because absentee ballots had already been sent.

Mobile County Dist. Atty. John Tyson defeated Darby.

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