Wilder Abandons Bid In Virginia Senate Race

FORMER Gov. L. Douglas Wilder yesterday abandoned his latest independent bid for the Senate yesterday as two polls showed him losing ground in the race.

``I have said that I was in this campaign for one reason only, and that was to win,'' Mr. Wilder said in a statement. ``Though I don't attach great significance to polls, they are influential, and the influence on financing capabilities is great. Mainly for that reason, I don't feel that I could raise sufficient funds for any winning effort to take place.''

Wilder's withdrawal leaves the field to Democratic incumbent Sen. Charles Robb, Republican Oliver North, and independent Marshall Coleman. Mr. Robb is the apparent beneficiary of Wilder's turnabout because the senator can now woo black Democrats who might have voted for Wilder, as they did in 1988 when he became the nation's first elected black governor.

``Obviously this dramatically improves Sen. Robb's chances for reelection,'' said John McGlennon, a College of William & Mary government professor. ``The polling information that I've seen indicates that many Wilder supporters had Robb as their second choice.''

A Mason-Dixon poll released yesterday showed Robb with support of 33 percent of those surveyed, Mr. North with 28 percent, Mr. Coleman with 15 percent, and Wilder with 12 percent. Another 12 percent were undecided. A poll issued Wednesday by Virginia Commonwealth University's Survey Research Laboratory showed North favored by 34 percent and Robb by 31 percent. Wilder had 13 percent and Coleman had 10 percent.

Feds find food-stamp fraud

UNDETECTED by regulators, bogus grocery stores are springing up around the country to launder food stamps for restaurants, wholesalers, and drug dealers involved in lucrative trafficking schemes.

The scams are spreading and food-stamp fraud has reached ``massive'' proportions, according to federal investigators who blame diminishing oversight and record growth in the government's largest welfare program.

The Agriculture Department (USDA) spends $24 billion a year providing food-stamp benefits to more than 26 million Americans - one in 10. Yet USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has only a handful of regulators and investigators to police the program.

According to agency and congressional officials, the Food and Nutrition Service has 46 food-stamp investigators today, compared with nearly 80 in 1979. Its field office staff, which oversees food stamps as well as other nutrition programs, has dwindled from 1,000 workers to about 150.

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