Even the most dogged pursuer of political trends might have difficulty eliciting any general truths from the patchwork results of Tuesday's primary elections in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
For the most part, the voters were kind to incumbents, giving most sitting governors and members of Congress easy victories. But that generalization is probably little solace today to the likes of Maryland Acting Gov. Blair Lee III, or District Mayor Walter Washington, or Vermont Lt. Gov. Garry Buckley, an officeholder for 25 years who was clobbered in the Republican primary by a rash neophyte named Peter Smith.
And any public official who thinks the elections showed a softening of the electorate's dislike for politicians might take a long look at the Republican House primary in Nevada. In that three-way race, the most votes went to the fourth line on the ballot, labeled "none of the above."
Lawyers worried about their profession's decline in status may be cheered to know that attorney Alan Simpson won Wyoming's Republican senatorial nod against an opponent who argued that attorneys cannot be trusted. But that results is probably offset by the Vermont election in which Republicans nominated a nonlawyer for state attorney general.
House members seeking to advance their political status had mixed results. Republican William L. Armstrong swept to a crushing victory in Colorado's Senate primary (he will oppose incumbent Floyd K. Hakkell in November), and Rep. Albert H. Quie easily won the right to challenge Democratic incumbent Rudy Perpich for governor of Minnesota.
But Minnesota's voters rejected an effort by Rep. Donald M. Fraser to win a Democratic senatorial nomination. Republican Rep. Robert W. Kasten Jr. was shocked in his bid for a gubernational nomination in Wisconsin. Rep. Lou Frey Jr. was beaten by former General Services Administration chief Jack Eckered in Florida gubernational primary.
Fraser's loss to tough-talking businessman Robert Short and Kasten's defeat by Lee Dreyfus, an extroverted university administrator, were the biggest surprises outside the Maryland and District results. The upset primary victories should give Short and Dreyfus forceful momentum for the fall campaign.
Kasten' loss was particulary embarrassing. He is considered a guru of political organizing in conservative Republican circles, and candidates around the country have adopted the "Kasten system" of campaign coordination. Tuesday, Kasten's system failed even to carry his home wards in Milwaukee County.
Dreyfus, a 52-year-old "political virgin," his own phrase, turned out to be an energetic and appealing campaigner. He toured the state in a converted school bus and milked his status as an underfunded underdog for all it was worth.
Tuesday was a fair day for antiabortion activists. Right-to-life workers played an important role in Short's Minnesota victory. In Vermont, Sarah Marie Dietz, who ran strictly on the antiabortion issue, upset the Democratic establishment by winning the party's primary for the state's at-large House seat. Dietz is considered a massive underdog against Rep. James M. Jeffords in November.
But another Vermont candidate who carried the right-to-life blessing, Bernard O'Shea, was trounced in the Democratic gubernational primary by state Rep. Edwin Granai, who now faces an uphill battle against Republican Gov. Richard A. Snelling.
Results were mixed, too, for politicians on the comeback trail. Former Florida senator Edward J. Gurney won a Republican House primary, and Peter peyser, a former Republican congressman from New York, won nomination again in his old district - this time as a Democrat.
But Claude Kirk, Florida's last Republican governor, ran far out of the omoney in that state's Democratic gubernatoral primary. Former representative Allard K. Lowenstein lost the Democratic House primary in Manhattan's "Silk Stocking District."