WASHINGTON – Political novice Rand Paul rode support from tea party activists to victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday night, delivering a jolt to the GOP establishment and providing fresh evidence of widespread voter discontent in a turbulent midterm election season.
Paul had 59 percent of the vote — with returns counted from 85 percent of the precincts — to 35 percent for Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who had been recruited to run by the state’s dominant Republican, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In his victory speech, Paul was crystal clear about who he is representing and he delivered a stern message to the crowd:
“I have a message, a message from the Tea Party a message that is cloud and clear and does not mince words ‘We’ve come to take our government back. We’ve come to take our govt back from the special interest who think that the federal government is their personal ATM.
This Tea Party movement has message to Washington that we are unhappy and that we want things done differently.
The Tea Party mandate is huge … The Tea Party movement is about saving the country from a mountain of debt that is devouring our country and that I think could lead to chaos.
Watch a portion of Paul’s victory speech praising his Tea Party backers:
[flashvideo file=http://dailycaller.firenetworks.com/001646/dailycaller.com/wp-content/uploads/rand.flv /]
In another primary prizefight, the Washington institute , five-term Sen. Arlen Specter was knocked out of the running by Rep. Joe Sestak.
Specter switched to the Democratic side of the aisle last year after casting the critical vote in the Recovery Act. But, many believed he switched parties because he would have lost a Republican primary against Pat Toomey.
Now it seems Specter was done anyway. After nearly five decades in politics this loss likely spells the end for the 80-year-old Specter.
Around 10:15 Specter addressed his supporters as they chanted, “Arlen, Arlen.” He was gracious in his concession speech and said he would back Sestak in November.
In a fourth race with national implications, Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz vied 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.
In Kentucky, Grayson had the support of McConnell as well as other establishment figures. But Paul countered with endorsements — and the political energy that flowed along with them — from tea party activists, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a conservative eager to push his party rightward in advance of the broader fall campaign.
Eager to avoid long-term fallout from a bruising primary, GOP leaders set a unity breakfast for Saturday.
The Kentucky Senate seat is one of 10 or more that appear likely to remain competitive until Election Day, and one that Republicans can ill afford to lose if they are to make a serious run at challenging the Democratic majority. The seat is now held by Sen. Jim Bunning, but McConnell was so concerned about Bunning’s ability to win a new term that he muscled the two-term lawmaker to the sidelines and recruited Grayson to run.
Paul, the son of Rep. Ron Paul, a former GOP presidential contender, entered the race with other ideas.
The far-flung races took place a little less than five months before midterm elections in which Republicans will challenge Democrats for control of both houses of Congress. President Barack Obama backed incumbents in his party’s races, but despite the stakes for his legislative agenda the White House insisted he was not following the results very closely.
Whatever the fate of the parties, public opinion polls — and the defeat of two veteran lawmakers in earlier contests — already had turned the campaign into a year of living dangerously for incumbents.