PHILADELPHIA -- A virtually unknown woman, outraged over the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings last fall, defeated experienced politicians yesterday to win the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.
Lynn Yeakel, a political newcomer who was even less well-known in Pennsylvania than Carol Moseley Braun was in Illinois, rode a wave of voter anger to win the right to challenge Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the fall.
Mr. Specter was the chief inquisitor of Anita Hill in October in the confirmation hearings on Mr. Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court. It was those hearings, into allegations by Ms. Hill that she had been sexually harassed by Mr. Thomas, that persuaded Ms. Braun and Ms. Yeakel to run for the Senate.
Only a few weeks ago, Ms. Yeakel barely registered in a poll of the five-person race that was dominated by the party's endorsed candidate, Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, and by Allegheny County District Attorney Robert Colville.
Ms. Yeakel targeted Mr. Specter's role in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, running a blitz of ads replaying his tough questioning of Hill.
Ms. Yeakel, 50, executive director of Women's Way, which raises money to aid battered women, said she decided to run when she became furious watching the 14 men on the panel confront Ms. Hill.
Her ads, after showing Mr. Specter at the hearings, pictured Ms. Yeakel asking, "Did this make you as angry as it made me?"
Apparently it did. She won about 55 percent of women's vote and 60 percent of those who were against confirming Mr. Thomas.
In the general election, Ms. Yeakel will confront Mr. Specter, who scored a 2-to-1 victory in the Republican primary against state Rep. Stephen F. Freind, author of the Pennsylvania law restricting abortions that is now before the Supreme Court.