ST. PAUL, Minn. - With a pair of easy primary victories behind them, comedian-turned-politician Al Franken and Sen. Norm Coleman wasted no time diving into the homestretch of their already long-running Minnesota Senate battle.
Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" star who put a talk radio career on hold to try his hand at politics, sealed the Democratic nomination in a seven-way primary. Coleman, the incumbent, trounced his only Republican opponent.
The race was the highest profile among primary elections held Tuesday in seven states and the District of Columbia.
For Franken and Coleman, the primaries were mere pitstops. Both have spent millions of dollars on hard-hitting ads and stockpiled millions more for the next eight weeks. While Coleman tended to Senate business in Washington, Franken planned a news conference Wednesday in St. Paul to set his tone for the general election.
"We're going to focus every day and the next 56 days on the issues in this race, and on why I'm running: To change the way Washington works," Franken said.
Coleman said he wouldn't be outhustled, noting his yearly treks through all 87 state counties since winning the seat in 2002.
"In the end it's the grass-roots efforts that win these things," Coleman said. "People are going to be so tired of the TV ads."
One potential wild card: Dean Barkley, the Independence Party nominee hoping to regain the seat he held briefly in 2002 as then-Gov. Jesse Ventura's appointee to finish the late Paul Wellstone's term. Barkley topped six primary opponents Tuesday.
Voters in New York also picked candidates for congressional races. In the Buffalo area, environmental lawyer Alice Kryzan won an upset in a heated Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Tom Reynolds, a one-time GOP power broker. Kryzan beat Iraq war veteran Jon Powers and millionaire Jack Davis, who received much more attention as they savaged each other.
A former star from MTV's "Real World" lost his bid to unseat a longtime Brooklyn congressman, Rep. Edolphus Towns. The 13-term Democratic incumbent defeated Kevin Powell, a community activist who appeared in the first season of the reality show.
Voters on Staten Island chose candidates to replace Republican Rep. Vito Fossella, who stepped aside after a drunken driving arrest led to revelations that he'd fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife. City Councilman Michael McMahon won the Democratic primary, while former state assemblyman Bob Straniere prevailed among Republicans.
Primaries were also held in New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. Some key results:
• In New Hampshire's closely watched Senate race, Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen easily won their primaries and resumed focus on their hard-fought rematch of 2002. Popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch easily defeated a retired teacher to seek a third two-year term.
• New Hampshire's two House seats, now held by Democrats, were also in play. Former Rep. Jeb Bradley earned the Republican nod in one primary; Jennifer Horn, who put motherhood at the top of her resume, defeated four Republicans in the other race.
• In the most expensive gubernatorial primary in Delaware history, state treasurer Jack Markell defeated Lt. Gov. John Carney. Markell, a Democrat, will face retired judge Bill Lee, who sealed the Republican nod.
• Former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry easily held off four challengers seeking his city council seat in the Democratic primary.
• Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner — the state's only incumbent U.S. House member to face a primary challenge — easily secured his nomination.