Warner Overwhelms Foe in GOP Senate Primary: Miller Says He'll Back Incumbent

Article excerpt

RICHMOND - Sen. John W. Warner yesterday beat back a challenge from party conservatives and trounced James C. Miller III by a 2-to-1 margin in Virginia's Republican primary.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted, the three-term incumbent had 318,446 votes, or 66 percent, to Mr. Miller's 167,698, or 34 percent.

Mr. Warner's victory culminated what his backers called a fight for the soul of the state GOP. The senator angered party activists by refusing to back Oliver North, the GOP's Senate nominee in 1994, or Michael P. Farris, the party's nominee for lieutenant governor in 1993.

"Virginians are a people who put their country first, who put Virginia first," the senator told a boisterous crowd at the Hotel Jefferson at 8:55 p.m., shortly after Mr. Miller conceded and called the senator to offer his support.

The landslide shows that "leadership, honesty and integrity count in this state," the senator said.

Taking a sheet of paper from his pocket, Mr. Warner quoted Thomas Jefferson: "I had laid it down as law to myself to take no notice of the thousands of insults issued against me, but to trust my character to my own conduct and to the good sense and candor of my fellow citizens."

Meanwhile, seven-term Rep. Herbert H. Bateman easily defeated David Caprara to win the Republican primary in the 1st District, which stretches from Fredericksburg to Tidewater.

Mr. Bateman was the only one of Virginia's 11 members of the House to face a primary challenge. Mr. Caprara resigned as director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development to run for Congress.

Mr. Bateman will face Democrat Russell Axsom, a former union president at Newport News Shipbuilding, in November. Mr. Miller conceded defeat at 8:42 p.m. He told supporters in Richmond he had just called Mr. Warner and congratulated him.

"I told him, `I started out to put a whipping on you, and I believe you've just put a whipping on me,' " Mr. Miller said.

"Since I am a loyal Republican, I'm going to support John Warner in the general election this fall, and I ask you to do the same."

Asked if he will campaign for the senator, Mr. Miller told The Washington Times, "We'll have to talk about that later."

Standing before about 50 supporters, Mr. Miller warned pundits not to interpret his defeat as a repudiation of Christian conservatives.

The primary reflected "the strong advantages an incumbent has," he said. "Money is very key, and if a challenger can't raise a lot of money, it's very difficult to compete."

Mr. Warner, 69, will face Democrat Mark R. Warner, a telecommunications tycoon worth $100 million, in the November election. The Warners, who both live in Alexandria, are not related.

The candidates' common last name is sure to spark confusion on the campaign trail. Both Sen. Charles S. Robb and Rep. James P. Moran botched their fellow Democrat's name Monday while speaking at a rally for him in Alexandria, calling him John Warner.

The senator said his bumper stickers will read: "Put your mark for John."

Mr. Warner's smashing primary victory came 10 days after Mr. North endorsed Mr. Miller at the GOP convention in Salem. Convention delegates gave Mr. Miller 76 percent of their votes in a non-binding straw poll. …