Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to “crush” the tea party in this primary election season, and the Kentucky Republican did his part Tuesday night by winning a landslide primary victory over businessman Matt Bevin — the latest victory for the Republican establishment.
The Associated Press and other news outlets called the race for Mr. McConnell minutes after the polls closed, setting the table for a battle royal this fall between the 72-year-old Republican, whose job approval rating is underwater after 30 years in Washington, and 35-year-year old Alison Lundergan Grimes, who easily won the Democratic nomination and is considered one of her party’s prized Senate recruits.
With 99 percent of the precincts counted, Mrs. Grimes had captured more than 76 percent of the Democratic vote, while Mr. McConnell had received 60 percent of the Republican vote, compared with nearly 36 percent for Mr. Bevin.
Five states held primaries Tuesday for various federal and state offices, including in Georgia, where there will be a race this fall to replace retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
With 87 percent of the precincts reporting in Georgia, wealthy businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston had captured 30 percent and 26 percent of the vote, respectively — enough to advance to a runoff race this summer.
Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, meanwhile, was running third with 22 percent of the vote, failing to move on despite having been endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express.
Farther back were Rep. Paul Broun — who was endorsed by the Madison Project — with almost 9.9 percent and Rep. Phil Gingrey with 9.8 percent.
Mr. Perdue and Mr. Kingston will now face off in a July 22 runoff contest for the GOP nomination and the chance to face off against Democrat Michelle Nunn — a first-time candidate and the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, who easily won her party’s nomination.
In other races, Monica Wehby, a pro-choice brain surgeon, was declared the winner in the contested GOP primary in Oregon, opening the door for her to shift her attention to toppling Democrat Jeff Merkley in the November election.
And in Idaho, Rep. Michael K. Simpson defeated his tea party-backed challenger, Bryan Smith, in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.
On the Democratic side, businessman Tom Wolf won the nomination for governor in Pennsylvania, setting up a clash with Gov. Tom Corbett, who is thought to be one of the most vulnerable governors in the country.
With polls in Kentucky showing they are running neck and neck in the general election, Mr. McConnell and Mrs. Grimes celebrated their victories by trading sharp jabs over gender politics and the power of incumbency.
Mr. McConnell said his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, inspired him by becoming the “only Kentucky woman in history to be a member of a president’s Cabinet” and that his mother instilled a fighting spirit in him.
He warned that Mrs. Grimes would be a partisan pawn for President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.
“A vote for my opponent is a vote for a guy who says coal makes you sick,” Mr. McConnell said. “A vote for my opponent is a vote for a guy who thinks nothing of this state if he thinks about it at all. A vote for my opponent is a vote for Obamacare and the president who sold it to us on a mountain of lies.”