Regional Election Summary: The Southwest
Sen. John McCain (R), who many believe will run for president in 2000, won an easy victory and a third term in the Senate. McCain defeated attorney Ed Ranger (D) with 68 percent of the vote.
McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, cast himself as willing to battle special-interest groups in Washington by helping to lead the fight for campaign finance reform and by sponsoring legislation two years ago that limits members of Congress from accepting gifts. He regularly compiles lists of "pork-barrel" spending and argues that the president should have a line-item veto to curb wasteful congressional spending. McCain also sponsored the leading legislative package to regulate the tobacco industry, but the industry turned against the bill as its costs grew and benefits to the industry shrank, and the measure died in the Senate.
Arizona also returned another Republican -- Gov. Jane Hull -- to a top office. Hull took over after former governor Fife Symington (R) was convicted of financial fraud last year.
Hull, who moved to Arizona from Kansas in 1962 and became active in GOP politics in 1978, continued Symington's popular programs and put together a relatively smooth year in office. She went into the election with the fund-raising advantage and easily defeated Democratic challenger Paul Johnson, a former Phoenix mayor.
In another key race, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R), who drew strong union opposition in 1996, defeated former state Democratic Party chairman Steve Owens in their rematch.
One of the nation's toughest House races played out in northern New Mexico as Democrats sought to take back the seat once held by Bill Richardson, who quit to join the Clinton administration and currently serves as energy secretary.
Democrat Tom Udall, the state attorney general and a member of one of the Southwest's best-known political families, defeated Rep. Bill Redmond (R). Redmond, a minister from Los Alamos, won the seat last year in a special election.
In the campaign's closing days, Republicans had hoped that Green Party candidate Carol Miller would pull votes away from Udall, son of former interior secretary Stewart L. Udall and nephew of former representative Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.). The governor, Gary Johnson (R), was seen as a vulnerable incumbent at the start of the campaign, but Johnson won a second term, defeating former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez (D).
Johnson has angered the Democratic-controlled legislature by attempting to set state policies without consulting lawmakers and by using his veto pen. But analysts said Johnson's disgust for career politicians and his efforts to cut the size of the state government played well with voters.
In a rematch from a June special election for an Albuquerque House seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Steve Schiff (R), Rep. Heather Wilson (R) again defeated state Sen. Phil Maloof.
Gov. Frank Keating (R), widely praised for his leadership in the days after the Oklahoma City bombing, was reelected to a second term with 58 percent of the vote. Sen. Don Nickles, part of the GOP Senate leadership, won a fourth term.
Voters also sent back to Washington their House GOP incumbents, including former football stars Steve Largent and J.C. Watts.
Gov. George W. Bush won a resounding reelection victory, the first step in what many think will be a run for the White House in 2000.
Bush, who got less than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1994, took about 46 percent of the Latino vote in defeating state Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, according to exit polls. Bush had suggested in the campaign's closing days that he thought he had a chance to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, something no Texas Republican had accomplished.
At his victory celebration, where supporters wore "Bush 2000" buttons, Bush thanked voters in English and Spanish, saying the election results showed wide support for his "compassionate, conservative philosophy," which "seeks to unify, not divide."
Just as crucial to Bush was the race for lieutenant governor. Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry, the Republican candidate for the No. 2 job, squeaked by state Comptroller John Sharp (D).
Traditionally, the lieutenant governorship has been one of the most powerful jobs in Austin. The No. 2 officer presides over the state Senate, appoints Senate committee chairmen and controls the flow of legislation. Perry and Sharp were 1972 graduates of Texas A&M and both campaigned on education, economic and criminal justice issues.
The Bush camp promoted a straight party ticket vote, and Bush's father, former president George Bush, starred in a television commercial for Perry.
The most endangered member of the Texas House delegation was Rep. Charles W. Stenholm (D), a conservative who has represented a sprawling West Texas district for 20 years. With 54 percent of the vote, Stenholm beat Rudy Izzard, a dentist who nearly surprised Stenholm two years ago.
Republicans also made a bid to knock off Rep. Martin Frost, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who represents a Dallas-Fort Worth district. But Frost easily defeated management consultant Shawn Terry (R).
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