Voters in northern Mexico (search) punished President Vicente Fox's party in weekend elections and chose the country's first female governor since the end of one-party dominance -- as well as a migrant who returned home to run for mayor.

Fox's National Action Party (search) lost badly in the sprawling border state of Chihuahua and in nearby Durango. It finished a distant third in Zacatecas, where the center-left Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, held on to the statehouse.

Amalia Garcia (search), the daughter of a former governor, gave the PRD an easy victory over Sen. Jose Bonilla of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, according to partial returns early Monday.

She becomes the first woman elected governor in Mexico since 1989, when the PRI first admitted losing a state election -- and since 2000, when Fox ousted it from its 71-year hold on the presidency.

Garcia's victory showed staying power by her party, which has struggled in northern Mexico. It won here in 1998 only because the PRI bypassed its most popular candidate, Ricardo Monreal, who jumped to the PRD and won the election. Monreal is now a declared presidential candidate.

But National Action, known as the PAN, failed in an attempt to recapture the border state of Chihuahua, the home of its founder Manuel Gomez Morin and a crucible of the struggle that led Fox to the presidency.

With more than half the vote counted, the PRI's Jose Reyes Baeza held a 56-42 percent lead over the PAN's Javier Corral, who had suggested that outgoing PRI Gov. Patricio Martinez could be imprisoned for wrongdoing if the PRI lost.

The PRI also appeared to dominate in the state legislature, where it had a 16-5 lead over the PAN with more than half the vote in.

Almost as sweet for the PRI was a mayoral victory in the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez, where the PAN won one of its first major municipal triumphs in 1983 and where it has governed continuously for 12 years.

Juarez had been seen as a weak spot for the PRI because of fierce criticism of state police under Martinez over failure to solve a series of slayings of young women.

Fox's party did win the state capital, Chihuahua city, however.

Zacatecas has unusually strong ties with the United States: About 1.5 million Zacatecans, or about half of the state's total population, live north of the border and it has been a pioneer in trying to increase the Mexican voting rights of migrants.

Mayoral candidate Andres Bermudez, a migrant-turned-millionaire who shuttles between California and the town of Jerez, held a margin of more than 2,000 votes over his closest contender with most votes counted.

Bermudez, known as the "Tomato King," won the mayorship for Jerez three years ago but he was stripped of his victory by the Federal Electoral Institute because he had not met residency requirements.

The PRI's Ismael Hernandez won in the mountainous state of Durango by an easy margin, according to early returns.