Former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein's Democratic primary victory Tuesday -- the first major party gubernatorial nomination for a woman in California -- topped a women's surge at the polls that poses a serious challenge to the well-funded campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Sen. Pete Wilson.
Women defeated men in five of six contested major party statewide races Tuesday, and Feinstein's primary opponent, state Attorney General John Van de Kamp, enthusiastically endorsed her effort to "make history."
Wilson immediately released a television commercial praising his Senate work on behalf of San Francisco and displaying a Feinstein letter telling him, "You're wonderful." Asked to comment, Feinstein grinned and said, "Men like to be called wonderful."
Feinstein's 52 to 41 percent victory was not nearly as surprising to analysts as San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith's 52 to 48 percent majority over Los Angeles County District Attorney Ira Reiner for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Reiner was much better known in Southern California, but suffered from his office's failure to convict alleged child molester Raymond Buckey.
All California ballot measures were approved except for two controversial redistricting plans, which lost by 2 to 1 after a $3 million negative campaign financed by Democrats.
In other California races, incumbent Thomas Hayes defeated former U.S. treasurer Angela "Bay" Buchanan, sister of conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan, 54 to 46 percent in the GOP primary for state treasurer. Hayes will face Kathleen Brown (D), sister of former governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr., in November.
Rep. Jim Bates (D), rebuked by the House ethics committee after sexual harassment charges from employees, easily survived a primary challenge and will face Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham in the fall.
In other primary results:
ALABAMA. Education association official Paul Hubbert and state Attorney General Don Siegelman claimed the right to meet in a June 26 runoff to determine the Democratic nominee for governor. The winner will face first-term Gov. Guy Hunt (R), who called the two Democrats liberals out of step with voters.
After the all-night tally, Hubbert had 32 percent, Siegelman 25 percent, former governor Fob James 22 percent and Rep. Ronnie Flippo, who gave up a safe House seat to run, 17 percent.
IOWA. House Speaker Don Avenson, an abortion-rights advocate, won the Democratic nomination for governor and will face Gov. Terry E. Branstad (R), an opponent of abortion, this fall.
With 39 percent of the vote, Avenson defeated state Attorney General Tom Miller, who opposes abortion and had 32 percent, and another abortion-rights candidate, former banker John Chrystal, at 26 percent.
Chrystal said abortion-rights groups, particularly the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), which ran television commercials on Avenson's behalf, made the difference. "NARAL's endorsement really brought votes to Avenson," he said.
Branstad responded to the results by saying that Avenson had won with the help of a "typical special-interest type of support." Abortion foes criticized Miller for waffling on the issue.
MONTANA. Lt. Gov. Allen Kolstad, who was recruited by the national GOP leadership to run against Sen. Max Baucus (D), overcame a strong challenge from Bruce Vorhauer, inventor of the contraceptive sponge, in a four-way primary. He won 44 percent to Vorhauer's 35 percent.
Baucus, who has raised $2 million, recalled the 1988 upset of Sen. John Melcher (Mont.) by Republican Conrad Burns, saying, "One never takes anything for granted -- ever."
NEW MEXICO. Former governor Bruce King won the Democratic nomination with 52 percent of the vote in a bid to regain the office he held for eight years. Former state representative Frank Bond won the GOP nomination with 55 percent.
NORTH CAROLINA. Democrats rallied around Harvey Gantt, who defeated prosecutor Mike Easley, 57 to 43 percent, to become the Democratic Party's first black Senate nominee this century. Gantt opposes Sen. Jesse Helms (R).
Gantt challenged Helms to joint appearances at every courthouse in the state to campaign "the old-fashioned way."