WASHINGTON – Political novice Rand Paul rode support from tea party activists to a rout in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday night, jolting the GOP establishment and providing fresh evidence of voter discontent in a turbulent midterm election season.
“I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back,” Paul told supporters after sealing his triumph over Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
On the busiest primary night of the year so far, very early returns showed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania ahead of two-term Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter sought his sixth term in the Senate, and his first as a Democrat.
Former Rep. Pat Toomey easily won the Republican nomination — six years after losing to Specter in a GOP primary.
In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln swapped early leads with primary challenger Bill Halter, the lieutenant governor whose challenge was backed by organized labor. A June 8 run-off was a possibility in a three-way race.
In a fourth race with national implications, Democrat mark Critz moved ahead of Republican Tim Burns as the first votes were counted in a race to fill out the final few months in the term of the late Rep. John Murtha in Pennsylvania. Each political party invested nearly $1 million in that contest and said the race to succeed the longtime Democratic lawmaker was something of a bellwether for the fall.
In Oregon, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden faced little opposition for nomination to a third full term.
Voters in Pennsylvania and Oregon also selected gubernatorial candidates.