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Republican senator wins Rhode Island primary

Republican senator wins Rhode Island primary

Rhode Island voters stood by Republican senator Lincoln Chafee, a man whose family name has been on the ballot for generations, rather than take their chances with a maverick mayor who represents a brand of conservatism unusual in this moderate New England state.

Chafee's victory over Cranston mayor Stephen Laffey in Tuesday's primary bolsters Republican efforts to retain control in the U.S. Senate after November's general election. It was one of the nation's most closely watched races and is sure to remain so with Chafee facing a tough challenge from former state attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic nominee.

Chafee had angered party members by voting against the war in Iraq, President Bush's tax cuts, and other GOP initiatives. But he got enough support--from unaffiliated voters as well as Republicans concerned about keeping their party in power--to defeat Laffey.

And he got the support of gay Republicans, who praised the moderate senator's support for gay rights. "Sen. Lincoln Chafee's primary win is a victory for all fair-minded Republicans in Rhode Island and across the country," said Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans. "We congratulate Senator Chafee and look forward to helping him win reelection in November. This was a hugely important election. A Laffey victory would've emboldened special interest groups to target other mainstream Republicans across America."

Sammon described Chafee as one of Log Cabin's strongest allies in the Senate. In addition to twice voting against the antigay Federal Marriage Amendment, he has supported a hate-crimes bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the Permanent Partners Immigration Act. (AP contributed to this report)

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