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    Ill. Conservatives Win GOP Senate, Democratic Governor Nominations

    By Christopher Wills
    Associated Press Writer
    Tuesday, March 17, 1998; 11:56 p.m. EST

    CHICAGO (AP) — A millionaire who many Republicans fear is too conservative to win in November defeated an abortion-rights supporter in a GOP primary Tuesday for the right to challenge embattled Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun.

    State Comptroller Loleta Didrickson, a moderate backed by much of the GOP establishment, conceded to state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who poured more than $7 million of his family's banking fortune into the race and mustered strong support among religious conservatives.

    In a Democratic primary for governor, Glenn Poshard, a five-term Southern Illinois congressman, defeated three Chicago attorneys.

    Poshard, the most conservative of the leading Democrats in the race, put together his victory by building on his downstate popularity with key endorsements from labor groups and Chicago party leaders.

    He will face Secretary of State George Ryan, an easy victor in the GOP primary, for the job being given up after two terms by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. The GOP has controlled the governorship for 22 years.

    With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Fitzgerald had 272,589 votes or 52 percent and Didrickson had 251,187 votes or 48 percent. Didrickson was ahead in Cook County suburbs and surrounding areas, but Fitzgerald more than made up for that with a commanding lead downstate.

    Fitzgerald arrived at his Schaumburg headquarters about 8:30 p.m., carrying his 5-year-old son, Jake, and told reporters: "I'm confident." He was watching returns from an upstairs suite while kilted bagpipers entertained his followers.

    Moseley-Braun, the first black woman in the Senate, has been a top target of national Republican strategists after a first term in which she was haunted by controversy over campaign finances and other issues, including a secret visit to Nigeria's military dictator, who has been accused of human rights abuses. She faced no primary opposition.

    Illinois GOP leaders worried that Fitzgerald was too conservative to win a general election in a state where the candidate closer to the middle of the road usually prevails. He favors making it legal to carry concealed weapons and banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

    Poshard, who refused PAC contributions, triumphed over a field that included Jim Burns, former U.S. attorney in Chicago; John Schmidt, a former Justice Department official; and former state Attorney General Roland Burris, the first black to hold major statewide office in Illinois.

    With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Poshard led with 268,692 votes or 38 percent, followed by Burris with 204,546 votes or 29 percent, Schmidt with 187,494 votes or 26 percent and Burns with 42,990 votes or 6 percent.

    Schmidt had attacked Poshard's anti-abortion stance and his votes in Congress against gun-control legislation.

    Burris saw an early campaign lead dwindle after disclosures he called his opponents "non-qualified white boys" in a speech.

    A Burris victory would have given the Democrats two black candidates at the top of the ticket in November. Although party officials would not discuss it publicly, they were concerned such a lineup might hurt the chances of candidates for other jobs, including the Statehouse.

    Among the lower-ballot primary races:

  • Tim McCarthy, the Secret Service agent wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, made his political debut in the Democratic primary for secretary of state. He was trailing with 46 percent of the vote against Cook County Recorder of Deeds Jesse White.

  • Conservative Al Salvi, who stunned GOP leaders by winning a 1996 Senate primary – only to lose to moderate Democrat Dick Durbin
  • won the Republican nomination for secretary of state against state Rep. Bob Churchill. Salvi was piling up 53 percent of the vote.

  • Democrats in Chicago and suburbs were choosing the almost-certain successor to 88-year-old Rep. Sidney Yates, a staunch liberal and the oldest and longest-serving member of the House. With almost half the vote counted, state Rep. Jan Schakowsky led a three-man race.

    Both parties were hoping the primary would mark the start of major power shifts within the state.

    Democrats, currently locked out of all major statewide offices, have a chance to return to the governor's mansion for the first time since 1976. And Illinois Republicans haven't elected a U.S. senator since Charles H. Percy in 1978.

    © Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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