Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily defeated intra-party challenger Matt Bevin in Kentucky’s Republican primary on Tuesday, setting up a high-stakes battle with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The Associated Press called the race almost immediately after polls closed on Tuesday. At that point, McConnell had a 62-33 lead over Bevin.
Grimes also sailed on her way to victory in the Democratic primary. She had more than 77% of the vote in the early stages of returns.
Bevin presented the first significant primary challenge for McConnell. He spent more than $US3 million on his own bid, but polls never showed him within striking distance.
McConnell was ready to shift into general-election mode on Tuesday. In his victory speech, he was set to begin hammering home a message he has paraded as of late. Elect him, he will say, and Kentucky can lead the nation — possibly with McConnell as Senate Majority Leader if Republicans can swing control.
Some of the outside grassroots groups supporting Bevin immediately came out and rallied around McConnell.
“We congratulate Senator McConnell on his victory and urge Republicans in Kentucky to come together to defeat Alison Lundergan Grimes,” said Matt Hoskins, the executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “We thank Matt Bevin for standing up for conservative principles and giving voters a choice in this race. Now it’s time for Republicans to unite for victory in November.”
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