Voters felt sorry for Sonny Bono's widow, but not just because he died. Mary Bono says they also sympathized with her mother-in-law problem.

During the campaign to replace her husband, Bono's mother-in-law, Jean Bono, criticized her for seeking the congressional seat. Jean Bono said the April 7 election would make "orphans" out of Mary Bono's children, 7-year-old Chianna and 9-year-old Chesare.Reflecting on the campaign before a crowd of Republican women leaders Wednesday, Mary Bono said with a slight smile that she "had the backing of all of my entire family" when she decided to run for her husband's seat.

The audience laughed, and she added wryly, "Everybody has a mother-in-law."

Bono, who won with more than 60 percent of the vote, joked that her total would have been closer to 50 without the mother-in-law dispute.

"That was the true sympathy factor, and not the accident" that killed her husband on the ski slopes, she said.

Her remarks, which focused on the problems facing female candidates, were sprinkled with humorous and self-effacing asides.

She recalled that during her husband's tenure she attended GOP-sanctioned sessions on how spouses of congressmen should dress. The classes were aimed at wives, not husbands - a tradition she said should be changed.

"Hopefully we're going to get more and more male spouses," she said.