US voting: moderate message . . .

If any lesson emerged from Tuesday's United States elections, it is that the public showed its preference for experience and professionalism - the middle-of-the-road approach, rather than ideological appeals.

These trends appeared at all office levels and in every region.

Voters also added a new twist to this year's results: They said that women and blacks must now be taken seriously. And by fashioning a coalition of traditional Democrats, whites, and blacks in several key contests, voters sent a signal to the White House that Republicans will have to work hard to score gains in big cities and the South during next year's presidential election. On the GOP side, moderate Republicanism scored a key victory.

It would be a mistake to exaggerate White House implications in off-year elections. As many political scientists have long argued, state and local contests tend to turn on local factors. But what seems equally certain is that the overall mosaic of local results - a contest here, an election there - can often add up to a tapestry that suggests important implications for a national presidential campaign, already beginning.

In that regard, Republicans can take little comfort in the gubernatorial victories of Democratic Lt. Gov. Martha Collins in Kentucky and Democratic Attorney General Bill Allain in Mississippi. The Mississippi contest in particular adds up to a major loss to Republicans. Republicans had hoped to forge a new conservative coalition in the South that could eventually wrest control of the statehouse at Jackson while building a base for a Reagan reelection bid.

In Georgia, the defeat of congressional candidate Kathyrn McDonald by state Rep. George Darden was also a vote in rejection of a somewhat extremist political bid. Mrs. McDonald was the widow of Congressman Larry McDonald, killed in the downing of KAL Flight 7. Both were Democrats. But she had sought to turn the contest into a referendum on Soviet behavior.

Republicans, of course, can take some comfort in the election of former three-term Gov. Dan Evans, who defeated Democratic US Rep. Mike Lowry for the right to fill the term of the late Sen. Henry Jackson. Mr. Lowry sought to turn the contest into a referendum on President Reagan. The Evans victory means that the GOP is now an extra seat up in its effort to hold the Senate next year. The Democrats would now have to pick off six Republican seats, while losing none of their own seats, to regain control of that chamber.

But while there is some solace for the GOP in the Evans outcome, there is not all that much. Mr. Evans is a nonideological, middle-of-the-road, managerial-professional type, in the Packwood-Dole-Hatfield vein. His win, therefore, cannot be construed as an endorsement of more-conservative Reagan policies.

Moderation and professionalism would also characterize results in the key mayoral contests Tuesday. In electing Democrat W. Wilson Goode as their first black mayor, Philadelphia voters picked a person who has already proved himself a thorough professional as the city's former managing director. In Gary, Ind., voters rejected a token bid from a socialist candidate to reelect Richard Hatcher for a fifth term. In San Francisco, Houston, and Baltimore, voters chose experience by returning incumbents Dianne Feinstein, Kathy Whitmire, and William Schaefer.

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