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Kerry Closes In On Nomination

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The battle for the South heated up Sunday.

Though the primary is not until Tuesday, political pundits said Sen. John Kerry has come away with a big prize in Virginia.

Gov. Mark Warner announced Sunday he will endorse Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kerry is the race's frontrunner, having won nine of 11 states already.

He won easily in Sunday's Maine caucus.

Other Demcrats said they will not let Kerry walk away with the nomination. John Edwards, Wesley Clark, and Howard Dean all said Sunday morning they plan to stay in the race in spite of Kerry's apparent dominance.

Edwards campaigned at a Baptist church in Richmond Sunday morning. Sunday night, he attended a dinner and rally in Tennessee.

A total of 181 delegates are up for grabs in Tuesday primaries in Tennessee and Virginia.

While North Carolina's neighbors are weighing in on the race for the White House, North Carolina's state and presidential primaries will not happen in May.

Six Republicans want to be North Carolina's next governor. But it appears voters will not know which Republican will take on Gov. Mike Easley any time soon.

"It's a confusing time for candidates when they don't know when the primary is," said Bill Peaslee, of the North Carolina Republican Party.

Here is the holdup: The federal government has to make sure the legislative district maps approved here in November comply with the Voting Rights Act. The government has not done that yet.

When approval did not come by Monday morning, the state Board of Elections postpone the primaries until July 20. That throws Republican candidates for a loop.

"They don't know when to buy airtime," Peaslee said. "Are they going to be conducting an election in May, in which case they would want to go on the air now? Or, if it's not going to be until September, they need to hold on to their case."

Democrats said they are not too concerned.

"We really have very few primaries at this point in time, so we are fairly united," said Scott Falmlen, of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Democrats said a Republican challenge of the maps is the reason for the likely holdup.

"These are solid, constitutional districts that will pass muster," Falmlen said. "The fact that the primaries are potentially delayed is their (Republicans') fault."

Of course, Republicans do not see it that way.

"The problem is there has not been enough time for voting rights compliance to be approved," Peaslee said. "Had we not even brought this latest lawsuit, we would still be in the same situation."

The governor's race is not the only one affected by a delayed primary. The United States Senate and presidential races are as well.

With the primary delayed, Democrats plan to hold caucuses in April to choose delegates to their national convention.

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