msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/12/2006 11:18:16 PM ET 2006-09-13T03:18:16

Results from the last big day of primaries before the November elections were being closely watched by both parties Tuesday night as they looked for evidence about the political climate in the country, five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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In New York, frontrunning Democrats swept aside primary challengers — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton trounced an anti-war candidate in her re-election bid, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer crushed his opposition for the Democratic nod for governor, and Andrew Cuomo easily won the party nomination for attorney general.

In a closely watched contest, moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island survived a challenge from a more conservative opponent. Chafee won support from the Republican establishment, despite bucking the Bush administration and being the lone Republican to vote against U.S. military action in Iraq.

A House race in Arizona for a seat left open by retiring moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe also has drawn national money and interest. Eleven major-party candidates for the seat that stretches from Tucson to the Mexican border were entered in the party primaries.

National GOP leaders angered Republican candidates when they jumped into the race to support state Rep. Steve Huffman, a moderate who in a recent poll was trailing a former state lawmaker, Randy Graf, who is focused on halting illegal immigration.

Party officials have expressed concerns Graf may be too conservative to win the seat in November. The two leading Democratic contenders are former state legislator Gabrielle Giffords and former local television anchor Patty Weiss.

With 18 percent of precincts reporting in Maryland for the Democratic nomination for Senate, 20-year Rep. Ben Cardin was leading Kweisi Mfume, former head of the NAACP, with 44 percent of the vote to Mfume’s 35 percent. Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes has announced his retirement.

The winner will face GOP Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who — if he won — would be the lone black Republican in the Senate. He has nine rivals for the Republican nomination but is expected to win easily.

Judges extended voting hours in Baltimore and nearby Montgomery County by one hour because of problems that delayed the opening of some polling places. Officials said some election judges did not show up on time and others had trouble getting into the facilities.

In all, nine states and the District of Columbia voted, with the other states including Delaware, New HampshireVermont and Wisconsin.

Clinton wins 80 percent of the vote
In Minnesota, Democrats were picking among four candidates for a House seat in a district that includes Minneapolis. The party backed state legislator Keith Ellison, who would be Congress’s first Muslim member if he won. But Ellison found himself in a tough, four-way battle.

In New York, Clinton beat challenger Jonathan Tasini with more than 80 percent of the vote. She will face former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer.

Spitzer defeated Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi with more than 80 percent of the vote. He will face GOP candidate John Faso, a former legislative leader, in the fall.

Former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo — son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo — defeated Mark Green, the former New York City Public Advocate, to win the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Elsewhere:

  • District of Columbia voters choose City Council member Adrian M. Fenty in the mayoral primary. In heavily Democratic Washington, the primary is tantamount to the general election.
  • In Vermont, Rep. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination for Senate. Sanders, who plans to run as an independent, aims to win the seat of retiring Sen. James Jeffords, the Senate’s lone independent. Three Republicans sought the GOP nomination, with businessman Richard Tarrant leading in early returns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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