MODESTO, Calif. (AP) _ From the moment his name was linked with a missing intern, Rep. Gary Condit refused to follow conventional political wisdom. He didn't apologize to his constituents or go on TV with a tearful explanation. He didn't even comment publicly for months.
And he didn't quit.
He ran for re-election even after his own party sacrificed ``Condit Country'' by redrawing the state's political map. Forty percent of the people in the new 18th Congressional District had never seen Condit's name on a ballot.
On Tuesday, those voters delivered their verdict on the son of a preacher who insisted up until Election Day that he had conducted himself as a gentleman. They handed a landslide victory in the Democratic primary to Condit's former friend and protege, Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza.
``Today the people of the Central Valley stood up for their values,'' Cardoza said at his victory party Tuesday night in Modesto. ``Tomorrow the sensational prologue is over and the real campaign begins in earnest.''
Condit, battered by relentless publicity about his affair with missing intern Chandra Levy, had insisted on campaigning for re-election even after Democratic leaders abandoned him.
Emerging briefly Tuesday night from his home in Ceres, the 53-year-old Condit said, ``It has been a great opportunity to be in public service ... I'll never forget it.''
Cardoza, a 42-year-old assemblyman whose positions are virtually identical to Condit's, won with 29,218 votes, or 55 percent, to 19,798 votes, or 37 percent, for Condit.
Cardoza said Condit, his former ally and mentor, could no longer function as a congressman.
``He doesn't have the relationships with his colleagues or with the voters of this district. He has a lot of personal challenges still to deal with this case,'' Cardoza said Tuesday night.
Condit, a ``Blue Dog'' conservative Democrat who defended powerful agricultural interests and earned support from both parties in the nation's richest farm belt, won every previous election he entered, from Ceres City Council to mayor to county supervisor and state assemblyman.
He was elected to Congress in 1989 to replace Tony Coelho, another favorite son who stumbled from grace. Coelho resigned when he got caught in a junk bond scheme.
Condit's seat was unchallenged until Levy, a 24-year-old from Modesto, vanished without a trace from her Washington, D.C., apartment in May. Police sources say Condit admitted having an affair with her, but he's not a suspect in her disappearance.
Condit had said that his campaign was the Levy family's best hope for finding their daughter, suggesting that her case would get little attention otherwise.
Her father, Dr. Robert Levy, wouldn't comment Tuesday night on that claim, or on Condit's loss, other than to say ``it's sort of what we were expecting.'' The Levys couldn't vote against Condit; like many of his former constituents, they were left out of the reconfigured district.
Unable to shake the scandal, Condit ran for his reputation as much as for the seat he has held for 13 years.
``Life deals you all kinds of situations and it's not the situations, it's how you handle it,'' Condit told reporters as his campaign drew to a close.
``I've tried to be a gentleman, I've tried to be dignified,'' he said. ``You guys have pretty much taken the hide off my career.''