Nation Briefs

Candidates in four states clash in primary elections

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Michigan Republicans selected former Rep. Pete Hoekstra to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November, while three GOP contenders were locked in a tight race Tuesday to oppose Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

In another closely watched Michigan primary, Democratic Rep. John Conyers staved off a primary challenge in a slightly redrawn district to advance to November’s election.

In the Missouri contest, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri led former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and businessman John Brunner with about half the vote reported in Missouri. The winner and McCaskill will compete in what will be one of the most closely watched Senate races of 2012.

Primary elections were being held in four states Tuesday. Other races included:

Member- vs.-member primary contests in Michigan and Missouri, including a showdown between two of Missouri’s most prominent Democratic families. Reps. Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay vied for a St. Louis-area seat in a race brought on by congressional redistricting.

A Democratic congressional primary for an open seat in Washington state.

Republican primaries in Kansas could determine whether a conservative bloc would take control of the state Legislature.

California refinery fire will boost gas prices

RICHMOND, Calif. – A major fire at one of the country’s biggest oil refineries that sent hundreds of people to hospitals with complaints of breathing problems will push gas prices to more than $4 a gallon on the West Coast, analysts said Tuesday.

The fire, which sent plumes of black smoke over the San Francisco Bay area, erupted Monday evening in the massive Chevron refinery about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco. It was out early Tuesday.

The West Coast is particularly vulnerable to spikes in gasoline prices because it’s not well-connected to the refineries along the Gulf Coast, where most of the country’s refining capacity is located, analysts say.

California’s average price Tuesday for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.86.

Associated Press