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Challenge in Texas GOP Senate Runoff; Key Race Begins in Mississippi

March 9, 1988 GMT

Undated (AP) _ Acknowledging that he won’t match his opponent dollar-for-dollar, U.S. Rep. Beau Boulter on Wednesday challenged millionaire Wes Gilbreath to a series of joint appearances in the runoff for the Republican Senate nomination in Texas.

In Mississippi, Republican Rep. Trent Lott promised an issue-based campaign against Rep. Wayne Dowdy, who won the Democratic nomination Tuesday for the seat being vacated by Sen. John Stennis.

″We’re not running against anybody,″ Lott said.

In other Super Tuesday primaries, Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes won renomination in Maryland and will face political newcomer Thomas Blair in November. In Louisiana, a Republican led the pack but still faces a runoff for the 4th District seat in Congress.

″It will take a united Democratic Party to beat him (Lott),″ Dowdy said. ″It can be won, and things are ripe for the Democrats to win in November. Mississippi should have at least one Democrat in the U.S. Senate.″

Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican, holds the state’s other seat.

Dowdy polled 189,203 votes or 54 percent to defeat Secretary of State Dick Molpus, who had 148,051 or 42 percent. Pipefitter Gilbert Fountain had 13,244 votes or 4 percent.

Both parties will have runoffs March 29 to choose nominees to succeed Dowdy, who won his seat in 1981, and Lott, who was elected in 1972.

Boulter, 44, who is giving up the House seat he has held for two terms to run for Senate, finished second to Gilbreath Tuesday.

With 89 percent of the vote counted, Gilbreath had 252,213 or 36 percent and Boulter had 202,326 or 29 percent. Former state Rep. Milton Fox of Austin had 132,787 or 19 percent and businessman Ned Snead of Georgetown had 103,979 or 15 percent.

Gilbreath, a millionaire from Houston, spent $500,000 on the race while Boulter’s campaign cost an estimated $130,000.

″We want to force Mr. Gilbreath out from behind his own personal money, and billboards and television,″ Boulter said.

Gilbreath, the only candidate to use television ads in the senate primary, acknowledged that he was not well-known when he entered the race and was delighted to finish first on Tuesday.

″I think it’s unheard of in Texas politics to accomplish that,″ said Gilbreath, 59.

Boulter estimated the campaign for the April 12 runoff would cost ″a few hundred thousand dollars,″ but added, ″I don’t think we need to compete with him (Gilbreath) dollar-for-dollar.″

Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen easily won the Democratic nomination for a fourth term and expressed no interest in who the Republicans choose to oppose him.

″I don’t look on anyone as unbeatable. I’m going to work very hard as I always do,″ said Bentsen, 66.

Thomas Blair, a millionaire businessman who captured 46 percent of the vote in a nine-man Republican Senate primary in Maryland, celebrated his victory by accusing Sarbanes of being an absentee senator.

″I predict this summer Mr. Sarbanes, who we have not seen for years, will come out,″ Blair said, comparing the senator to a cicada, the insect which turns up every 17 years.

Picking up an issue from the Republican primary, Sarbanes said: ″The Republican nominee hasn’t even bothered to vote over the last six years, and was taken off the election rolls, which I think tells you something about his commitment to the political process.″

In Louisiana, Republican Jim McCrery finished ahead of nine Democrats in a non-partisan election for the the 4th District House seat, which will be vacated Monday by McCrery’s old boss, Democratic governor-elect Buddy Roemer.

McCrery will meet state Sen. Foster Campbell in a runoff on April 16.

Rep. Bill Alexander of Arkansas won re-election to an 11th term on Tuesday by defeating political consultant Darrell Glascock by 2-1 in the Democratic primary. Alexander is unopposed in the general election.