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Women Surge Ahead

CALIFORNIA'S Democratic voters provided further proof that this is a year for women candidates. Both of California's Senate seats are up for grabs, and both Democratic nominations were grabbed by women in Tuesday's primary.

Former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein easily won the right to meet incumbent Republican Sen. John Seymour for the remaining two years of the term interrupted by Pete Wilson (after his election as governor in 1990 Wilson appointed Mr. Seymour to fill the Senate vacancy until the next general election). US Rep. Barbara Boxer will challenge Republican Bruce Herschensohn for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston.

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Feinstein's and Boxer's victories follow Senate-primary triumphs by Democrats Carol Moseley Braun in Illinois, Lynn Yeakel in Pennsylvania, and incumbent Sen. Barbara Mikulski in Maryland. (Currently Ms. Mikulski and Nancy Kassebaum [R] of Kansas are the only women members of the Senate.) Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro appears to be leading in the Democratic primary race in New York to oppose Republican Sen. Alphonse D'Amato.

Women candidates are also running in unprecedented numbers for House seats and state and local offices.

Women's political success this year is widely attributed to women's anger over the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, their desire to protect abortion rights, and growing public awareness of the importance of such "women's" issues as child care and family leave. True in part, but we're reluctant to identify women candidates just as women's candidates. In many contests female candidates have simply been the ablest and best-qualified choices, even leaving aside gender issues. Both Feinstein and Boxer rec eived a large number of men's votes Tuesday.

Good for these candidates, and for a Democratic Party that has nurtured them. But what has the GOP - the party of Clare Booth Luce, Millicent Fenwick, and Nancy Kassebaum - to say for itself in this year of the woman?

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