Black candidates won primaries for governor of South Carolina and lieutenant governor of Arkansas, propelling them into uphill general election races against powerful opponents.
In the Arkansas race, businessman Kenneth "Muskie" Harris trounced Ku Klux Klan sympathizer Ralph Forbes by more than a 6-1 margin on Tuesday to win the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.In South Carolina, state Sen. Theo Mitchell soundly defeated state Sen. Ernest Passailaigue in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
In one other election with racial overtones, the first black mayor of Atlantic City, N.J., James L. Usry, was ousted by a white challenger in a runoff. Usry was recently indicted on corruption charges.
Voters also elected the first black mayor of Trenton, N.J., chose congressional candidates in Maine and rejected a sales tax increase in North Dakota.
In Arkansas, Harris said his victory over Forbes showed that Arkansas voters had "finally rejected the old tactics of the KKK and the neo-Nazis, and white supremacists' effort to deceive the public."
In final, unofficial returns, Harris, a 36-year-old executive with a Little Rock hair products company, had 27,548 votes, or 86 percent, to Forbes' 4,432 votes, or 14 percent.
Harris is only the second black candidate ever nominated for a constitutional office in Arkansas and hopes to become the first black elected to such an office. But he will be an underdog in November against a strong Democratic nominee, ex-Rep. Jim Guy Tucker.
Forbes, a former member of the American Nazi Party who believes in racial separatism, insisted he had been robbed of the election. Told that he was losing his home county, Pope, by 68 votes to 8, he replied, "I've got more than eight kids, for crying out loud." The county's total at the end of the night was 571-79.
In South Carolina, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Mitchell had defeated Passailaigue by 116,922, or 60 percent, to 76,790, or 40 percent.
"I'm very humble," Mitchell said as he accepted the party's nomination. "As a man of color, it shows that we are still fulfilling the promise of this great nation."
Mitchell would become the state's first black governor if he defeated popular Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell in the fall.
"He's going to be the next governor of South Carolina," Passailaigue said of Mitchell. "I'm convinced of that."
In Atlantic City, Usry received 4,427 votes, or 38 percent, to Whelan's 7,244, or 62 percent. The mayor had been dogged by his indictment on charges of illegally accepting $6,000 last summer.
Race played a role in the campaign. Usry, angered by a lack of white support in the May 8 election, refused to campaign in two predominantly white wards. He received 49 votes in those wards Tuesday, to Whelan's 4,522.
Here are highlights of primary voting Tuesday in five states:
Arkansas - Lieutenant Governor: Kenneth "Muskie" Harris, a black executive, defeated Ralph Forbes, a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer and former member of the American Nazi Party, in a runoff for the Republican nomination. Harris will face former Rep. Jim Guy Tucker, the Democratic nominee, in November.
Maine - Both parties held primaries to fill the House seat being vacated by Rep. Joseph E. Brennan, who is running for governor. State Sen. Thomas Andrews upset Attorney General James E. Tierney. Former U.S. Rep. David Emery defeated state Rep. John McCormick in the GOP race.
New Jersey - Atlantic City Mayor: Incumbent James L. Usry lost to City Councilman Jim Whelan. County Freeholder Douglas Palmer scored a close victory over Mayor Carmen Armenti to become Trenton's first black mayor.
North Dakota - Voters defeated a proposal to raise sales taxes from 5 percent to 6 percent for one year to improve education.
South Carolina - Governor: State Sen Theo Mitchell defeated state Sen. Ernest Passailaigue in a Democratic primary, winning the right to challenge Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell. Mitchell hopes to become the state's first black governor.