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Rep. Matsui's widow captures seat

Doris Matsui is seen at her campaign headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday.Steve Yeater / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The widow of former Rep. Robert T. Matsui easily won a special election Tuesday to fill the seat vacated when the longtime Democratic congressman died two months ago of a blood marrow disease.

Doris Matsui, a lobbyist and former Clinton White House official, will become the nation’s 45th congressional widow since 1923 to go to Capitol Hill upon the death of her husband. She was expected to be sworn in Thursday at the nation’s Capitol.

With 32 percent of precincts reporting, Matsui had nearly 72 percent of the overall vote, defeating a crowded field that included three Democrats, five Republicans and four candidates from other parties.

She needed more than 50 percent needed to win the seat outright.

Robert Matsui, 63, represented the heavily Democratic Sacramento-area district for 26 years and was the party’s leader in opposing President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security.

Doris Matsui, 60, announced her candidacy 12 days after her husband’s Jan. 1 death and raised nearly $700,000 within six weeks during political events in Washington and Sacramento. She received donations from prominent Democrats such as Teresa Heinz Kerry and former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her fund-raising amount was six times more than all of the other candidates combined.

Matsui’s fund-raising and the blitz of television commercials it fueled in the race’s closing weeks prompted criticism from other candidates that she tried to “buy” her late husband’s seat.

Matsui’s campaign issues included federal support for stem cell research and opposition to Bush’s plans to revamp Social Security.