Mitch McConnell Defeats Tea Party-Backed Challenger Matt Bevin in Kentucky Primary

LEXINGTON, Ky. (TheBlaze/AP) — Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes ran victory laps Tuesday in Kentucky as they rallied their party faithful to nominate them for a colossal showdown in November that could help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State, rolled to victory over nominal primary opposition. And McConnell easily defeated tea party-backed challenger Matt Bevin, who spent $3.3 million in his failed bid to oust the five-term Republican Senate leader.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Warren County supporters to send him back to the Senate next year where he hopes to lead a new majority of Republicans during a rally Saturday, May 17, 2014, at the Republican Party of Warren County headquarters in Bowling Green, Kentucky. (AP Photo/Daily News, Miranda Pederson)
Kentucky Democratic senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks to a gathering of supporters Saturday, May 17, 2014, at the Simpson County Courthouse in Franklin, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

When he announced his candidacy last summer, Bevin appeared poised to give McConnell the run for his life. But despite the financial backing of outside conservative groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, Bevin’s campaign never gained traction. McConnell used high-profile endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association to tout his conservative bona fides.

Bevin took a number of thinly-veiled shots at the incumbent Republican in his concession speech on Tuesday.

The tea party-backed candidate criticized his opposition for launching petty political attacks against him, which he says only undermines the political process in the U.S.

Watch some of his speech below via CNN:

Bevin characterized himself as the true conservative in the race, hitting McConnell hard for his repeated votes to increase the country’s debt and his vote to approve the 2008 Wall Street bailout. But his campaign stumbled early when a document surfaced from Bevin’s investment company calling the bailout a “positive development.” And Bevin was caught on tape telling a crowd at a pro-cockfighting rally that he thought it was wrong to make cockfighting illegal.

However, McConnell had already shifted into fall campaign mode. He’s been attacking Obama’s health care law and coal regulations and trying to link Grimes to the president, who is deeply unpopular in Kentucky. Grimes, meanwhile, has been portraying herself as an “independent Kentucky woman” at recent campaign stops in what could be an attempt to woo scorned GOP primary voters.