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  •   The New House

    Compiled by Al Kamen
    Thursday, November 5, 1998; Page A36

    Democrats picked up five seats -- including the first Chinese-born congressman and the first open lesbian -- and showed that southern white Democratic men can still win by capturing the middle ground. (Also see LEGI-SLATE's full list of House newcomers.)


    Wisconsin state Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a 10-point winner over Republican Josephine Musser, is the first woman to be elected to the House from Wisconsin and will be the House's first openly lesbian member.

    Baldwin, a Democrat with huge support from homosexuals in Madison, narrowly won the primary with 37 percent of the vote against Musser, who was hammered by her party's conservative wing.

    Tuesday amounted to a contest between each party's most liberal candidate for a seat held for four terms by retiring Rep. Scott L. Klug, a Republican and former D.C. television newscaster.

    With the late primary vote, the six-week general election race became a sprint to the finish, and the key was seen as which candidate could raise the most money the fastest. Baldwin, an attorney, easily won, collecting more than $1 million as of Oct. 14, compared with Musser's $600,000. Baldwin, 36, is a three-term state Assembly member.


    The outcome was never in doubt in this most Democratic of seats in Boston, but five-term Somerville Mayor Michael Capuano's victory with more than 80 percent of the vote could mark the beginning of a long House run for the 46-year-old.

    An Italian American, Capuano will occupy the storied, historically Irish seat once held by former Boston mayor James Michael Curley, John F. Kennedy, former House speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II.

    Another Irish Democrat, former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn, led the crowded field of 10 primary candidates who had jumped in after Kennedy's surprise announcement that he would not seek another term. But Capuano, a popular mayor, used his political machine and an old-fashioned, get-out-the-vote campaign as keys to his victory, with 23 percent of the vote, in the critical September primary.


    Moderate state Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall finally captured for the GOP his "Beach Republican" Los Angeles district, held by outgoing Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat. Kuykendall's victory came in a hard-fought, 2-point win over businesswoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat.

    The key to this Republican pickup was Kuykendall's primary victory in June, when he beat former Rancho Palos Verdes mayor Susan Brooks, a conservative. That gave the GOP a candidate whose abortion rights and anti-assault weapons views were more in sync with the moderate district's voters. Harman had barely eked out victories in 1994 and 1996 over Brooks.

    Kuykendall, who served two tours in Vietnam, rising to the rank of Marine captain, also emphasized his experience in the Assembly, where he served as the Republican whip. His Assembly district covers nearly one-third of the congressional district.


    Mississippi state Highway Commissioner Ronnie Shows is being cited as evidence that white, male southern Democrats have not gone the way of the dodo bird -- even when they raise barely half as much as the Republicans. As of Oct. 14, the Republican candidate who opposed Shows, tax lawyer Delbert Hosemann, had outraised Shows $1.2 million to $472,000.

    Even so, Shows, a social conservative and populist, is a classic "good ole boy" who was depicted as perfect for the district. Republicans saw President Clinton's vast unpopularity there as a potential drag on the Democrats. But the Clinton factor apparently did not break against Shows. Much more important may have been that Hosemann struggled through a difficult primary and then a runoff, which cut deeply into his fund-raising advantage.

    Each candidate tried to label the other as out of sync with the district, but Shows, 51, was able to withstand the "too liberal" tag, getting endorsements from Blue Dog Democrats.


    There was never a question that the Democrats would hold on to Ohio's 11th District in Cleveland when Rep. Louis Stokes called it quits after 15 terms. President Clinton carried the district with 79 percent of the vote in 1996 and 73 percent in 1992.

    So the only real question was which Democrat would take the seat. The answer came in May, when Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Stephanie Tubbs-Jones won a strong 51 percent of the primary vote against state Sen. Jeffrey Johnson, head of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, and the Rev. Marvin McMickle, who each took 20 percent.

    Tubbs-Jones, 49, a former judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court, was the first female and first African American prosecutor in the history of Cuyahoga County. Local businessman and radio talk show host James Hereford, the Republican candidate, came in second in a three-way race, getting 13 percent of the vote to Tubbs-Jones's nearly 80 percent.


    David Wu, a high-tech lawyer from Portland, Ore., overcame an early fund-raising disadvantage to become the third Chinese American and the first born in Taiwan who will serve in the House. Wu, 43, who came to this country in 1961, campaigned as a New Democrat in his Democratic-leaning district. He beat a 29-year-old Republican, Molly Bordonaro, who campaigned as a centrist, by 7 points in a race that had been seen as a tossup. The campaign featured dueling polls, including one in early September showing Bordonaro with an 11-point lead.

    Wu appeared to have moved Bordonaro to the right in voters' minds by emphasizing her past support for a constitutional ban on abortion and the abolition of the Department of Education. He made it to the general election after a surprise upset in the Democratic primary, handily defeating Washington County Commissioner Linda Peters.

    Wu replaces liberal Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Furse.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post

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