A busy primary day

In primary elections that may show the depth of voter anger, Moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee battles for political survival against a conservative challenger in Rhode Island on Tuesday as voters in nine states choose candidates for November elections.

On the busiest primary day of the year, Maryland Democrats settle a crowded battle for a nominee to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, while Democrats in the District of Columbia essentially pick the capital city’s next mayor.

With nominal opposition, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is expected to win the party’s nomination for a second Senate term in what could be a warm-up for a potential 2008 White House bid.

Scores of other contested nominations for the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and governor’s offices also will be decided when Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia vote.

Chafee hopes to avoid becoming the second incumbent U.S. senator to lose a primary in as many months, following Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s August loss in Connecticut to an anti-war challenger.

Chafee, who has often broken with Republican President George W. Bush, faces a challenge from the right from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey in what could be an unpredictable primary.

Laffey says Chafee is a big spender who is out of touch with the northeastern state of Rhode Island. But the White House and establishment Republicans have flocked to help Chafee, believing he offers their best hope of beating Democratic candidate Sheldon Whitehouse in November and keeping the seat in Republican hands.

Democrats must pick up six seats in the November 7 election to regain control of the Senate and 15 seats to win a majority in the House.

In Maryland, 18 candidates have slugged it out for the Democratic Senate nomination, with Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume leading the pack for the right to face presumed Republican nominee Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

In Washington D.C., city council member Adrian Fenty and council chairwoman Linda Cropp are the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for mayor, which is tantamount to election in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

The parties also will pick candidates in competitive Senate races in Arizona and Minnesota, and in key House races in Arizona, Wisconsin, New York and Minnesota