In a tight race Sunday, former businessman and trade bureaucrat Kazuhiko Oigawa won the Ibaraki gubernatorial election, giving a lift to the struggling Liberal Democratic Party and denying Gov. Masaru Hashimoto a record seventh consecutive term.

The challenge from the political newcomer came as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling LDP attempt to recover from scandals that have wiped out his aura of invincibility and sent him spiraling in the polls. The election was the first major contest since Abe revamped the Cabinet and party leadership on Aug. 3.

The LDP, allied with smaller Komeito in the ruling coalition, put a great deal of effort into the three-horse race as it was viewed as a prelude to the three Lower House by-elections scheduled in October.