Primaries Show Some States Aren't Ready for a Change
IF Nebraskans and West Virginians are fed up with traditional politicians, they didn't reveal it in Tuesday's primaries. President Bush and Democratic front-runner Bill Clinton posted solid primary victories in the presidential contests in both states
So did incumbent United States congressmen. The only exception was in West Virginia, where a consolidated district forced two incumbents to run against each other. Even there, voters returned the one who ran as the Washington insider.
"Here, people tend to be pretty loyal," says Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. "I didn't get the sense that people were that angry with Bush."
With the vote in 79 percent of the precincts reported, 84 percent of Nebraskans voting in the Republican primary chose President Bush; 14 percent backed challenger Pat Buchanan. On the Democratic side, Arkansas Governor Clinton had 47 percent of the vote, former California Gov. Jerry Brown 23 percent.
It was much the same story in West Virginia. With 68 percent of the precincts counted, Bush had 81 percent to Mr. Buchanan's 15 percent. Clinton had 75 percent; Mr. Brown 12 percent.
If there was a race in which anti-incumbent feeling might have shown itself, it was West Virginia's gubernatorial vote. Democratic Gov. Gaston Caperton has not fared well in his first term. After running on a no-new-taxes platform, he immediately raised state taxes. He also was accused of mishandling the state's first teachers' strike.
Caperton faced a strong challenge in the Democratic primary from two candidates, state Attorney General Mario Palumbo and state Sen. Charlotte Pritt. The race in its closing days looked like a repeat of the Illinois and Pennsylvania campaigns, in which female candidates upset statewide incumbents in crowded fields.
Senator Pritt is the first woman to run for governor of West Virginia in 60 years. Being a liberal, she got the one-third of the Democratic vote that traditionally goes to liberals in statewide elections, says Allan Hammock, chairman of the political science department at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Palumbo, a conservative, saw his campaign fade in the run-up to the election. That left Caperton to pick up everybody else.
Despite his gaffes, says Professor Hammock, most voters apparently believe Caperton has put the state on far better footing than his predecessor, Arch Moore, who left a huge budget deficit and went to prison on corruption charges.
Caperton is expected to win the November election against state Agriculture Commissioner Cleve Benedict, who easily won the Republican nomination. West Virginia has more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans.
In Republican-dominated Nebraska, voters lined up solidly behind US Reps. Doug Bereuter (R) and Peter Hoagland (D). Both are expected to win in November, Ms. Theiss-Morse says.
The Nebraska races were overshadowed by a referendum that would revise the state's tax system. The measure, pushed by the governor, appeared to win a majority.
West Virginia lost one of its four congressional seats in the last round of redistricting because of shrinking population. Thus, the race in the new consolidated First District pitted two Democratic incumbents, Rep. Harley O. Staggers Jr. and Rep. Alan Mollohan, who won easily.