Former Reagan aide to challenge GOP’s George Allen in Virginia
RICHMOND, Va. – James Webb, a former Reagan Navy secretary who broke with the GOP over the invasion of Iraq, won the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen, a man he had endorsed six years earlier.Webb won 53 percent of the vote in Virginia’s primary Tuesday, defeating Harris Miller, a wealthy businessman and longtime Democratic activist who outspent him nearly 2-1.”We need leadership that will not just follow an administration blindly, but is capable of independent thought,” Webb, a decorated Marine combat veteran in Vietnam, told more than 300 supporters in his victory speech.Four other states also held elections Tuesday, including primaries for governor in Maine and South Carolina; a Democratic runoff for the nomination for lieutenant governor in Arkansas; and an election in North Dakota for a Grand Forks City Council seat that was won by a Marine reservist serving in Iraq.In Virginia’s Senate race, Webb, 60, intends to portray Allen as a loyal acolyte to President Bush on the Iraq war, a massive federal debt and other issues that have made Bush unpopular.Nine Democratic senators backed Webb – including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in a rare preprimary endorsement – calling him the party’s best hope to beat Allen, or at least force Allen to sideline his presidential aspirations to fight for a second term.Webb’s margin of victory came in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where backing from major national Democrats matters.Miller, 54, put nearly $1 million of his own money into the campaign. He portrayed Webb as a sexist who had questioned women’s fitness for combat and had criticized affirmative action. In a televised debate, Webb called Miller “the anti-Christ of outsourcing,” accusing him of pushing Internet industry jobs overseas.Miller was conciliatory, however, in his concession speech.”Jim Webb is going to be a great United States senator, and I’m going to do everything I can to help him get there,” Miller said.In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Mark Sanford easily defeated a political newcomer for the nomination for another term. In the Democratic primary, state Sen. Tommy Moore beat Florence Mayor Frank Willis.South Carolina’s GOP primary for lieutenant governor was headed to a June 27 runoff between incumbent Andre Bauer and challenger Mike Campbell, the son of popular former Gov. Carroll Campbell. The race had been energized by news that Bauer at least twice avoided speeding tickets – once after he was caught going more than 100 mph.In Maine, author and organic farmer Jean Hay Bright claimed the Democratic nomination Wednesday to take on two-term Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. Her opponent, Eric Mehnert, conceded after a close race. Snowe had no GOP challenger.In Maine’s Republican primary for governor, Chandler Woodcock narrowly led fellow state Sen. Peter Mills. On the Democratic side, Gov. John Baldacci easily prevailed against a little-known computer specialist.The Associated Press declared Woodcock the winner Wednesday. Mills refused earlier to concede to Woodcock, saying his “mission” was “prove to myself I can’t win here.”In Arkansas, former Clinton administration official Bill Halter defeated state Sen. Tim Wooldridge in a runoff to determine the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Halter faces Republican state Sen. Jim Holt this fall.In North Dakota, Marine Maj. Mike McNamara, 48, said that he ran for Grand Forks City Council because he sees the office as an extension of his military service. The effort paid off when McNamara, the son of a former major league baseball manager, won Tuesday.”I’m not a politician,” McNamara said by phone from a base near Fallujah in Iraq. “I ran so I could serve. I see it as an extension as my service over here.”McNamara has served 15 months in two tours of duty in Iraq. Tuesday night, when told about early returns through e-mail, McNamara compared the City Council race to the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. His father, John McNamara, managed a Red Sox team that was one out from winning the series.”And they lost,” he wrote.”I think about that whenever someone tells me I’m going to win,” he said.McNamara plans to attend council meetings by speakerphone until his scheduled return in late August or early September.