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Matsui Widow Favored to Win Husband's Seat

The widow of Democratic Rep. Robert T. Matsui (search) was the odds-on favorite in a 12-way special election Tuesday for her husband's seat in Congress.

Doris Matsui could become the nation's 45th widow since 1923 to go to Capitol Hill upon the death of her husband.

The 60-year-old Washington lobbyist and former Clinton White House staff member jumped into the race two weeks after her husband died at Jan. 1 of a blood marrow disease. He had represented California's state capital in the House for 26 years.

Three Democrats, five Republicans and four candidates from other parties are in the race. Matsui has raised nearly $700,000, or six times more than all of the other candidates combined, with most of her contributions coming from outside California, from such sources as Washington political action committees and former Clinton administration members.

She was the clear front-runner in the heavily Democratic district, though it was uncertain whether she would get the more than 50 percent needed to win the House seat outright. If no one gets a majority, the top vote-getters in each party will meet in a runoff May 3.

In contrast to the wave of sympathy she received after her husband's death, Matsui has weathered blistering attacks for her Washington establishment fund-raising, for not condemning the war in Iraq, for a lucrative real estate investment with a powerful Sacramento development company, and, most recently, for a TV ad featuring a split-second clip of her greeting former Republican first lady Nancy Reagan (search).

She could become the third congressional spouse in California to win her husband's seat in the past decade.

In 1998, Democrat Lois Capps (search) succeeded her husband, Walter, after he died of a heart attack. The same year, Republican Mary Bono (search) went to the House after her husband, former pop star Sonny Bono, was killed in a skiing accident.