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  • New Mexico race is a focus of the battle for House control

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  •   Republican Wins Special Election

    Heather Wilson (R) celebrates her victory with Sen. Pete Domenici (R), New Mexico First Lady Dee Johnson and Gov. Gary Johnson (R)
    Congresswoman-elect Heather Wilson (R) celebrates with Sen. Pete Domenici (R), New Mexico First Lady Dee Johnson and Gov. Gary Johnson (R). (AP)
    Associated Press
    Wednesday, June 24, 1998; Page A05

    ALBUQUERQUE, June 23—Republican Heather Wilson defeated Democrat Phil Maloof for a congressional seat today in a special election considered an important warm-up for November's battle for control of the House.

    With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Wilson had 45 percent, while Maloof had 39 percent. Green Party candidate Robert Anderson had 15 percent.

    Voters in the Albuquerque area congressional district were filling the seat held by five-term GOP Rep. Steven Schiff, who died of skin cancer in March at age 51.

    The big-spending, mudslinging race between Maloof, a millionaire state senator, and Wilson, a former state agency head and member of the National Security Council staff in the Bush administration, drew national attention because both parties hoped to gain momentum heading into the fall elections.

    Democrats lost a chance to chip away at the GOP margin in the House, where before today's election, there were 227 Republicans, 206 Democrats and one independent.

    The GOP has held the House seat for nearly 30 years, although Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans in voter registration. Democrats worried that Anderson, a college instructor and former steelworker, would play the spoiler if many voters turned to him out of disgust.

    Wilson, 37, was secretary of the state Children, Youth and Families Department. She is an Air Force Academy graduate and Rhodes Scholar.

    The candidates offered voters a sharp contrast on issues. Maloof supports an increase in the minimum wage; Wilson opposes it. Wilson backs a pilot program of taxpayer vouchers that enable poor children to attend private schools. Maloof opposes vouchers.

    Wilson portrayed Maloof as a lightweight who didn't understand issues but was trying to buy his way into Congress. Maloof put more than $1.5 million of his own money into the campaign.

    "You just can't buy the experience Heather Wilson has," her ads proclaimed.

    Wilson will serve out the remainder of Schiff's term. Maloof and Wilson will go at it again in November – each already has been nominated to run for a full two-year term.

    Wilson becomes the first woman from New Mexico to serve in Congress since Georgia Lusk, a Democrat in 1947-49.

    Meanwhile, in Mississippi tax lawyer Delbert Hosemann defeated banker Phil Davis for the GOP nomination in a primary runoff for the 4th Congressional District seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Mike Parker (R), who is retiring. Hosemann will face state Transportation Commissioner Ronnie Shows (D) in November.

    In the GOP runoff in Mississippi's 5th District, accountant Randy McDonnell defeated Karl Mertz and will face Rep. Gene Taylor (D) on Nov. 3.

    © Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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