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Most Democratic Incumbents Survive Bay State Primaries

ONLY one Massachusetts congressman, US Rep. Chester Atkins (D), was defeated in Bay State primary elections Tuesday while three other beleaguered incumbents managed to fend off strong Democratic challengers.

Even seven-term Rep. Nicholas Mavroules (D), who is under a 17-count federal indictment for tax evasion, bribery, and influence-peddling, managed to win a close race against state Rep. Barbara Hildt (D). Two other incumbents who faced tough primary battles - Rep. Gerry Studds (D) and Rep. Joseph Early (D) were winners.

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Two of the incumbents - Representative Early and Representative Atkins - were linked to the scandal over misuse of the House of Representatives bank. In addition, the four also had to contend with a new state congressional map because of redistricting.

A redistricted congressional map was finished in mid-July, leaving the Bay State with 10 instead of the usual 11 congressional districts. According to Steve Grossman, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, the election showed that voters value long-term congressional experience. "I think that experience and advantage we have in Washington is something that voters were deeply concerned about," he says.

But that wasn't true of Atkins, who was defeated by former Middlesex County prosecutor Martin Meehan. In November, Mr. Meehan will face off against former Congressman Paul Cronin, who won the Republican primary. Atkins is the first incumbent Democratic congressman to be defeated in a Massachusetts primary since 1970.

"Redistricting was clearly a factor. I think Chet knew he had a major battle," Mr. Grossman says.

Although only one Democratic incumbent was defeated in the Bay State's all-Democratic delegation, GOP leaders were nevertheless satisfied that the three other incumbents are remaining for the November general election.

"We consider them rotten apples on a tree," says Alan Safran, spokesman for the Massachusetts State Republican Committee. "And we didn't at all mind the prospect that those three will be hanging on the tree on Nov. 3. With the single exception of [Representative] Studds, all the others rolled up pathetic margins, with none getting more than 50 percent."

Here's what is ahead for the other three incumbents:

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* Representative Mavroules was considered one of the most vulnerable of the four incumbent congressmen.

A ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee who represented the Bay State's northeastern district for the past 14 years, he was indicted less than three weeks before the primary. Mavroules will face state Rep. Peter Torkildsen, who won the GOP primary.

* Representative Studds won handily over his closest rival, state Sen. Paul Harold (D). Redistricting cut Studds' Cape Cod district in half; he lost the city of New Bedford and gained the city of Quincy. If he defeats former state economics undersecretary Daniel Daly, who won the GOP primary, Studds is expected to take over the chairmanship of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee.

* Early, fending off attacks over his involvement in the House bank scandal, was able to prevail over four Democratic challengers. The nine-term congressman was listed as one of the top 24 House members who consistently wrote bad checks. Yet Early was able to benefit from a split vote with four challengers. Early will run against state Rep. Peter Blute who won the Republican primary.

Other New England results:

Connecticut. In the Republican Senate race, Brook Johnson, a businessman from Greenwich, defeated rival state Rep. Christopher Burnham. Mr. Johnson will run against Sen. Christopher Dodd, a two-term Democrat.

In a hotly contested House race, Waterbury Probate Judge Jim Lawlor won a close Democratic primary over state Rep. Lynn Taborsak, a plumber from Danbury. Mr. Lawlor will run against first-term Rep. Gary Franks, the only black Republican in Congress.

Rhode Island. Gov. Bruce Sundlun (D) defeated challenger Francis Flaherty (D) and will face GOP primary winner Elizabeth Leonard, a Barrington, businesswoman, in November.

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