JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi Democrat Travis Childers won a special election to Congress yesterday, helping his party to a third victory in recent months for seats long in Republican hands.
The victory puts Childers into the seat vacated by Roger Wicker, a Republican appointed to the US Senate when Trent Lott resigned. The win also pushes the Democrats to a 236 to 199 majority in Congress - if only for a few months until November's general elections.
With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Childers had 52 percent to Republican Greg Davis's 48 percent.
Earlier this year, Democrats captured the Illinois district long represented by former Republican speaker Dennis Hastert, who resigned from Congress, then earlier this month claimed a seat in Louisiana that Republican Representative Richard Baker left.
Elsewhere, Nebraska voters were deciding the Republican and Democratic candidates to run to replace retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, while a scandal-clouded state Supreme Court election took center stage in West Virginia.
Childers took on Davis for a Mississippi seat that has been held by the GOP since 1994. Both will run against two other candidates in the Nov. 4 general election for the full term, so the winner will probably gain name recognition and a fund-raising edge.
Childers is a socially conservative county official, while Davis is mayor of a fast-growing city across the state line from Memphis.
The race attracted national attention, with Vice President Dick Cheney campaigning for Davis on Monday, and Davis running ads trying to tie Childers to Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Childers and Davis advanced to yesterday's runoff by grabbing the top two spots in a six-person special election April 22.
In right-leaning Nebraska, Republican Mike Johanns, the former US agriculture secretary and Nebraska governor, easily beat businessman Pat Flynn in the GOP US Senate primary. Johanns, who has raised more than $2 million, takes Hagel's open support into the general election.
Among the four Democrats seeking to advance to November, Tony Raimondo and Scott Kleeb were considered the most formidable contenders.
In West Virginia, a scandal threatened to derail the state's top judge from serving another term. Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard went from shoo-in to embattled incumbent after photos surfaced in January of him vacationing with the chief executive of a massive coal producer. He faces a former justice, a Huntington lawyer and a West Virginia University law professor.
The two top vote-getters will face the lone Republican in the race for two high court spots in November.
With 53 percent of the precincts reporting, Maynard was trailing the field of four candidates.
West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, who hasn't lost a statewide race since 1972, easily beat two challengers as he seeks a fifth six-year term. In November's general election, he'll face Republican Jay Wolfe.
Governor Joe Manchin had an easy time fending off a primary challenge and will take on Republican Russ Weeks, a former state senator, in November.