Parties gear up for busiest primary night

The GOP is looking to keep control of the House and Senate.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In Arizona, one House candidate called party officials idiots. In Rhode Island, ad-makers turned a Senate hopeful into a political pi & ntilde;ata.
And that's just Republicans attacking Republicans ahead of Tuesday's nine-state primary night, the busiest of the year.
For some candidates on the ballot, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York among them, the primaries are a warm-up of sorts in advance of the fall re-election campaign and then a possible 2008 race for the White House.
For other successful politicians, they are a winnowing process.
That is the situation in Maryland, where Rep. Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and one-time head of the NAACP, are the best known among 18 contenders for the Democratic Senate nomination.
The primary winner will run against Michael Steele, the state's lieutenant governor who is seeking to be the Senate's only black Republican.
Bright spot
Republicans, facing the possibility of the loss of seats in several states, hope Steele can become their brightest star of the year, even though it has been more than a quarter-century since the GOP has won a Senate race in Maryland.
After Tuesday's primary, the Democratic nominee "will be broke and without momentum facing a strong candidate with a message of empowerment that is resonating across Maryland," said Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the Republican senatorial committee.
For the political parties, the week's primaries represent another in a dwindling number of chances to influence the lineup for the November ballot, when the GOP's continued control of the House and Senate is at stake.
Hence, the controversy.
In a Tucson-area seat in Arizona, the National Republican Congressional Committee has run an ad supporting Steve Huffman, praising him as an advocate of lower taxes and a "common sense approach to immigration that puts security first." Huffman is "the conservative choice," said the commercial.
A recent poll showed Huffman trailing a former state lawmaker, Randy Graf.
Graf won 43 percent of the primary vote in an unsuccessful run against Rep. Jim Kolbe two years ago, but party officials have expressed concerns he may be too conservative to win the seat in November.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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