AMERICAN ELECTION: The Long Island gun widow wins a seat

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Among all the victors delivering acceptance speeches across the United States, the taker of the prize for understatement must surely go to Carolyn McCarthy of New York's fourth congressional district on Long Island. "I had one issue, but that one issue meant a lot to me," she told cheering supporters That issue was gun control.

The McCarthy campaign will be remembered as one of the most poignant of 1996. A former nurse and life-long registered Republican, Mrs McCarthy, 52, was fighting for a seat in Congress as the widow of one of six victims of a gunman who ran amok aboard a commuter train from Manhattan to the Long Island suburbs in December 1993.

A self-professed political neophyte, she agreed to challenge the Republican freshman incumbent in her district, Dan Frisa, last March, when he joined in a vote in Washington to repeal the assault-weapons ban championed by Bill Clinton.

On Tuesday, Mrs McCarthy, whose son was also grievously wounded in the massacre but who has now mostly recovered, prevailed and did so handsomely with a 57 per cent to 41 per cent win over Mr Frisa.

Hers was a victory that will be a boost both for the gun-control lobby in America - and a blow against the National Rifle Association (NRA) which made large donations to Mr Frisa - and also for women, who emerged from Tuesday as a stronger force in American politics.

"All we wanted to do was make something good come out a horrible situation," she declared after the results. "Well, we certainly did that". And for good measure, she added: "I certainly beat the person I wanted to beat, but I also beat the NRA."

Her election contributes to an increase in the number of women, of whom 47 were already sitting in the House of Representatives. The strong trend in favour of women candidates was also reflected in races for the Senate and for state governorships.

The Senate tally is set to remain at nine out of a 100, with a notable and very tight victory achieved by Mary Landrieu, a Democrat in Lousiana. Maine, meanwhile, will for the first time have both its Senate seats taken by women, after Susan Collins, a Republican, won her race in that state.

One more important result from Tuesday was the election of Jeanne Shaheen to be the first female governor of New Hampshire, a state that until this week has had a strong tradition of Republican support.

t In Pontiac, Michigan, a candidate who criticized efforts to convict Dr Jack Kevorkian, the proponent of euthanasia, was elected as the county's new prosecutor and said he will probably drop all charges against tthe doctor. Democrat Steven Kaplan will replace Richard Thompson, the official who twice tried - and failed - to convict Dr Kevorkian. Last week, Mr Thompson charged Dr Kevorkian, who has acknowledged assisting 45 suicides, on 19 counts stemming from 10 deaths.