Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

North's Senate Run Seen as Bitter, Colorful Iran-Contra Figure Wins Victory by Wooing Extreme Right in Virginia

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

North's Senate Run Seen as Bitter, Colorful Iran-Contra Figure Wins Victory by Wooing Extreme Right in Virginia

Article excerpt

SETTING the stage for what could be the most bitterly fought Senate election in the United States this year, retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North captured the Republican nomination in Virginia over the weekend.

A sharply divided GOP convention picked Mr. North over his Republican rival, former Reagan budget director James Miller III. The colonel then launched a stinging attack against President Clinton and the Democratic Congress. He castigated Washington as a city filled with "arrogant, self-serving" politicians who "sacrifice our childrens' future" by kowtowing to lobbyists and supporting huge budget deficits.

"Our campaign is about changing that," he vowed.

North, whose conviction on felony charges in the Iran-contra affair was overturned on a technicality, alarms many middle-of-the-road Republicans. The state's most popular Republican, Sen. John Warner, refuses to support him. But North's candidacy thrills GOP conservatives, including many evangelical Christians.

Democrats will choose their nominee in a June 14 primary. But two candidates could bolt the major parties and run as independents. The result could be an unpredictable, four-way race.

The probable contenders:

* Colonel North, backed by Gov. George Allen (R) of Virginia, and a large segment of GOP regulars.

* Sen. Charles Robb (D) of Virginia, who is favored to win this month's party primary despite political opposition generated by reports of his own moral lapses.

* Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D), who has a long-standing feud with Senator Robb, and who is expected to run as a Democratic-leaning independent. He could hurt Robb, especially by drawing normally Democratic votes out of the black community.

* Former Republican candidate for governor Marshall Coleman, whose supporters have gathered 20,000 signatures to put him on the ballot. Senator Warner is expected to support Mr. Coleman.

Ironically, the Robb-Wilder feud could play into the colonel's hands, and even put him into office. In fact, analysts say a four-way split, with North picking up a hard-core vote of perhaps 30 to 35 percent, may be the best route for a North victory.

Supporting that theory, North supporters outside the Republican convention hall in Richmond over the weekend were reportedly signing petitions to put former Governor Wilder on the ballot. …

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