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WASHINGTON INSIGHT

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From The Times' Washington Bureau

LETTING GO: Secretary of State Warren Christopher is a man of famous reserve, so he was a bit taken aback when he was asked at a press conference Wednesday if, as a result of the relatively peaceful election in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he felt “personally vindicated and triumphant.” His Christopherian reply: “You know me well enough to know that’s not the way I approach things.” But when asked his reaction to Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo’s no-hitter Tuesday night, the longtime Dodger fan brightened and dropped his guard: “I was absolutely thrilled by that. . . . Usually they have football scores when you’re playing Colorado, rather than no-hitters.”

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SHUFFLING CONGRESS: In a race critical to the struggle over which party controls the Senate in the next Congress, Georgia

Democratic Senate candidate Max Cleland is talking up the virtues of the political center--even going so far as to offer a plan many would find radical, and naive. Cleland’s campaign to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn is considered crucial to the Democrats’ chances of regaining control of the Senate. Yet despite his role in that intensely partisan contest, Cleland is often disdainful of the traditional trappings of partisan allegiance. “No wonder Congress spends all its time fighting,” Cleland says in a commercial his staff plans to air later in the campaign. “Why not mix up the seating, forget about the parties . . . make Republicans and Democrats sit together” instead of on opposing sides of the House and Senate chambers. “Maybe then they’ll work together.”

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THE OTHER WASHINGTON: The state of Washington may get the first Asian American governor in the Lower 48 states as a result of this week’s primary. Gary Locke, the chief executive of King County, which includes Seattle, won the state’s Democratic primary. He is the son of Chinese immigrants and would be the nation’s first Asian American governor outside Hawaii. He will probably face former state Sen. Ellen Craswell in the general election. Craswell, a leader of Christian conservatives in the state, was ahead of Dale Foreman, the majority leader of the state House, in a race so close that it will not be determined until absentee ballots are all counted later this week. Gov. Mike Lowry, a Democrat, is retiring.

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ZZZZZZ: In the era of instantaneous everything, a Democratic primary in Massachusetts this week was yawningly quaint. The election to choose a candidate for the congressional seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Gerry E. Studds featured polling places that still rely on paper ballots and pens--and hand tallying. Maybe they should add coffee to the mix. The race had to be recounted because a clerk in the Oak Bluffs section of Martha’s Vineyard fell asleep during the count Tuesday night. Former federal health official Philip W. Johnston was declared the winner on Wednesday.

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LISTLESS: The trendy West Hollywood restaurant Drai’s, a usually reliable venue for screen-star-gazing, hosted only a handful of second-rank celebrities last Thursday night. The maitre d’, asked whether the restaurant was losing its luster, replied huffily: “Usually we get the A-list, but they’re all at the fund-raiser.” Turns out that all the Democratic-leaning industry bigs--which is most of them--were at the $4-million Beverly Hills fund-raising event for President Clinton hosted by Barbra Streisand and the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee.

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