McConnell Opponent Still in Doubt

Kentucky's Democratic Senate primary remained in dispute Wednesday, with political newcomer Lois Combs Weinberg claiming victory over a former congressman who refused to concede.

In a surprisingly close vote, the well-financed Weinberg outpolled Tom Barlow by fewer than 1,000 votes out of more than 460,000 cast Tuesday.

In a canvass Wednesday by The Associated Press of all but one county, Weinberg held a lead of 616 votes in her bid to challenge three-term Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell this fall.

The AP tally showed Weinberg with 230,404 votes to Barlow's 229,788. The count by the secretary of state's office showed Weinberg with 230,282 votes to Barlow's 229,302, a 980-vote difference.

"It's great to be a winner," Weinberg said. "George Bush showed us whether you win by 100 votes or 100,000, you're still a winner."

Barlow said he would consult with friends before deciding whether to ask the state for a recanvass of votes cast in 3,461 precincts in 120 counties.

"That's an option that I will look at, but we've also got to remember party unity, too," said Barlow, who declined to say when he would make his decision. "I'm not going to stretch it out."

The State Board of Elections is scheduled to certify the voting on June 14. Barlow has until next Tuesday to ask for the recanvass, which can take up to a few weeks.

McConnell has apparently decided that Weinberg will be his opponent, and suggested her campaign will be a weak one.

"I think it would be safe to conclude that she kind of limps into the general election with a very divided party behind her," said McConnell, who has $4.1 million on hand for the fall campaign.

Weinberg, an education activist from eastern Kentucky and the daughter of the late Gov. Bert Combs, spent about $600,000 during the primary, much of it in a late rush of television commercials. Barlow, who runs a small business in Paducah, spent only $6,000, most of it on postage and gas for his van.

Weinberg reported about $800,000 on hand in her last campaign finance report.

"They were trying to save resources for the November election. They cut it closer than they should have," said Gov. Paul Patton, who had thrown his support and the party's behind Weinberg.

Also Tuesday, Idaho Democrats chose nominees to challenge two popular Republicans, Sen. Larry Craig and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Craig will face Alan Blinken, a millionaire Wall Street investment banker, major national party fund-raiser and Clinton administration ambassador to Belgium.

Kempthorne easily defeated three challengers in the GOP primary and will face Democrat Jerry Brady, publisher of the Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls. Brady, who beat a retired construction worker to win the nomination, is the 65-year-old grandson of a former governor.