Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood survived a scare from a "right-to-life" opponent in the Oregon Republican primary Tuesday, and his moderate GOP colleague, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), faces a tough Nov. 4 challenge from Rep. Bob Edgar (D), who has forged a reputation as a giant-killing liberal.
In Oregon, the Rev. Joe Lutz, a lightly financed first-time candidate, won 42 percent of the Republican primary vote against Packwood, triggering speculation that the senator could be vulnerable in November. But Tim Hibbitts, a Portland pollster with many Democratic clients, said Packwood "is still a very-long-odds favorite" against Rep. James Weaver, who easily won the Democratic primary.
Packwood, who in his bid for a fourth term has raised $7 million, an Oregon record, recognized early that conservative opposition, centered on but not confined to the "right-to-life" issue, would be a threat if the voter turnout was light, as it proved to be. He spent nearly $2 million on television ads and phone banks.
Lutz, who claimed 5,000 volunteer workers from his church-based network, had virtually no media campaign.
"He [Lutz] clearly beat Packwood on the streets," said one veteran Democratic operative. "If he had been able to get on the tube, he might have beat him, period."
Some of Lutz's antiabortion backers said before the primary that they would back Weaver over Packwood, even though the six-term congressman has as clear a "pro-choice" position as the senator has. Weaver, a self-styled populist, comes from Eugene and lacks broad name recognition in the Portland area.
As expected, former secretary of state Norma Paulus (R) and former Portland mayor Neil Goldschmidt (D) breezed to easy victories in Oregon's gubernatorial primaries. The prospects are for a close battle to succeed retiring two-term Gov. Victor Atiyeh (R).
In Pennsylvania, Edgar won 47 percent of the vote in the Democratic Senate primary, Auditor General Don Bailey got 45 percent and George Elder, a supporter of extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., had 5 percent.
Former auditor general Robert P. Casey, making his fourth run for governor, easily beat former Philadelphia district attorney Edward G. Rendell in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Casey had 56 percent of the vote, Rendell 40 percent and Steven Douglas, another LaRouche supporter, 4 percent.
Specter won the Republican primary with 76 percent of the vote. Lt. Gov. William W. Scranton III was unopposed for the Republican gubernatorial nomination to succeed Richard L. Thornburgh (R).
Edgar, who has won six terms in a heavily Republican Philadelphia suburban district, piled up huge margins in the Philadelphia area. Democratic officials credited endorsements by the state AFL-CIO and several major unions with helping him hold down Bailey's margin in the Pittsburgh area.
"Specter won in 1980 because he ran so strongly in the Philadelphia area and Edgar will checkmate him there while running well in the rest of the state," said Edward Mezvinsky, the Pennsylvania Democratic chairman. "With Casey, who ran well everywhere in the state, it's a very strong, well-balanced ticket, much better known and financed than our candidates in 1982."
Rick Robb, a consultant in Scranton's campaign, sees the Democratic ticket as a mixed bag.
"Edgar is a formidable candidate and will be much tougher for Specter than Bailey, but Rendell would have been tougher for Scranton because he would be so strong in Philadelphia," Robb said.
In Connecticut, where 27 towns voted for delegates to the state Democratic convention, former representative Toby Moffett (D) was 46 short of the number of delegates needed to force Gov. William A. O'Neill into a September primary.
Moffett thought he had won Waterbury's 49 delegates, which would have put him over, but officials revised the vote count and declared O'Neill the winner by 48 votes. There will be a recount and Moffett has threatened legal action.