FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - With the political and financial clout of the tea party behind him, Republican Thomas Massie easily won the GOP nomination Tuesday to run for an open congressional seat in Kentucky's 4th District.
The relative newcomer of politics, a protege of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, beat two well-established Republicans, state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Massie had 19,638 votes or 45 percent, to 12,501 votes for Webb-Edgington or 29 percent. Moore had 6,503 votes or 15 percent.
The race showed that the tea party movement remains strong in Kentucky. Paul endorsed Massie and was actively involved in the race, even appearing in a TV ad. And a Texas-based tea party group put more than $500,000 into the race.
"Some people want to make this race about the tea party," Massie said after securing the victory. "Good campaigns and good government are about building coalitions. This is a coalition of the tea party, the liberty movement and grassroots Ronald Reagan Republicans. And we have one thing in common: We want less government, not more."
Republican strategist Mike Karem of Louisville said Massie's decisive victory sends a strong signal to Kentucky's GOP establishment.
"The tea party is, in fact, a force to be reckoned with," Karem said.
The Republican nominee in the 4th District will be the overwhelming favorite to win the November general election. The congressional seat, which is centered in the suburbs just south of Cincinnati, has been held by the GOP since 1967, except for a six-year stint between 1999 and 2005 when Democrat Ken Lucas served.
With little drama at the top of the ballot and local races drawing scant interest, turnout in the state was light.
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, facing no real competition, easily won Kentucky's GOP primary. President Barack Obama had no Democratic opponent.
With the presidential contest wrapped up, the race drawing the most interest was the one involving Massie, Moore and Webb-Edgington, three of seven Republicans wanting to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis.
That race drew attention and funds of outside political groups, including Texas-based Liberty For All, which invested $541,000 in TV advertising to push for Massie's election.
Donna Ingrahm of Bellevue in Campbell County, said "it bothers me" that outside groups funneled money into what should be a local race.
"That race should be funded by the people from the district, not Texas or someplace else," Ingrahm said.
Massie, 41, said the outside money wouldn't have been necessary if the Republican establishment hadn't gotten behind his two chief rivals. Davis and former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning publicly endorsed Webb-Edgington, prompting Paul to come out for Massie, bringing with him the might of the national tea party movement.
"In a fair race, I would have won this without the PAC," Massie told The Associated Press.
The other GOP candidates in the race -- Crestwood teacher Brian Oerther, Fort Mitchell business consultant Tom Wurtz, Erlanger lawyer Marc Carey and Crestwood building contractor Walt Schumm -- reported raising little or no money for their campaigns.
Williamstown attorney Bill Adkins was leading former Army medic Greg Frank of Corinth in the Democratic race in the 4th District.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Adkins had 17,185 votes or 69 percent, to 7,862 votes for Frank or 31 percent.
In Louisville, turnout started slowly on a cool, crisp late spring day. At St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, about a dozen poll workers sat at tables, chatting, reading books and minding voter rolls that were largely unsigned several hours into the day.
Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi, a 30-year-old litigation paralegal from Louisville, saw a quiet day at Jeffersontown High School where she voted in the Democratic primary. There were few other voters, no traffic and no ballot issues.
Herb Kelly cast his ballot for Obama at Walnut Baptist Church in the Old Louisville neighborhood. Kelly worries that Obama could lose in November if the economy doesn't turn around soon.
"Things need to pick up, though I don't know if the other guy can fix them if he gets in there," Kelly said.
Zach Shoulta, a 27-year-old Democrat of Draffenville in western Kentucky, credited Obama with solving some of the country's problems, but wasn't enamored of the incumbent.
"What we need in this country is serious change. New blood, something totally different," Shoulta said. "Everyone I talk to complains about two main things: the rising price of gas and the terrible economy. I know they are related and I just hope they get fixed soon."
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