WASHINGTON: Republicans have chosen two millionaire businesswomen to lead them in key election battles in California, America’s most populous state, which has been pushed near to bankruptcy by the recession.The former chief executive of eBay, Meg Whitman, won her party’s endorsement to run for governor, while Carly Fiorina, who headed the computer firm Hewlett Packard for six years, will battle for a Senate seat in November’s mid-term elections.Other women also emerged victorious in primary contests conducted in 12 states on Tuesday, including Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, who beat dire predictions by fending off a union-backed campaign to oust her in favour of a more liberal Democrat.Acknowledging the widespread backlash against sitting members of Congress, Senator Lincoln told voters: ”I’ve heard your message. It’s loud and clear: that Washington needs to work for us, for us in Arkansas.”Incumbents in both parties could not take much solace from Senator Lincoln’s victory, however. In South Carolina, Representative Bob Inglis, a veteran Republican, was forced into a run-off election after finishing a distant second in the battle to hold on to his seat. And the Republican Governor of Nevada, Jim Gibbons, lost his party’s endorsement.The primaries coincided with a vote by Californians for landmark constitutional reform, changing the way candidates are selected for local, state and federal office.Tuesday’s primary results were cast amid deep voter distrust of Washington, making for treacherous times for incumbent members of Congress and boding badly for Democrats, whose majority in the House of Representatives could be under serious challenge.”Both parties are having civil wars with their Washington establishments,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist. “You are seeing it on the Republican side; you’re seeing it on the Democratic side. The reality is, regardless of what party you are in, if you’re an incumbent and it looks like the Washington establishment is backing you, you’re in trouble. It’s the wrong place to be this year.”Centrist candidates generally have been under the gun, with the Tea Party movement continuing to influence outcomes, helping the campaigns of conservative Republicans.In Nevada a former state assembly member, Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favourite, won the Republican nomination to challenge the Senate majority leader, the Democrat Harry Reid.Ms Fiorina, a cancer survivor, also found favour from the Tea Party pin-up Sarah Palin, who endorsed her candidacy for the Senate race in California. She will face the three-term senator Barbara Boxer, who has enjoyed the support of the President, Barack Obama, on the campaign trail in recent weeks.Ms Whitman, who as chief executive took the online commerce site eBay from an internet start-up to a company with $US8 billion ($9.7 billion) of annual revenues, will take on the former Democrat governor Jerry Brown for the right to succeed the retiring Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.In South Carolina, Nikki Haley, another Republican beneficiary of Sarah Palin’s endorsement, moved closer to becoming the state’s first female governor.Ms Haley endured a bruising campaign, including accusations of infidelity, to set herself up for a run-off against Gresham Barrett, a four-term Republican congressman.”We had the kitchen sink thrown at us,” Ms Haley said. ”We are a state of great people. We are a state of dirty politics.”with agencies