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.
A protege of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Massie beat two well-established Republicans, state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore, in a seven-candidate race.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Massie had 19,638 votes or 45%, to 12,501 votes for Webb-Edgington or 29%. Moore had 6,503 votes or 15%.
The race showed that the tea party movement remains strong in Kentucky two years after it sent Paul to the Senate. 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.
With little drama at the top of the ballot and local races drawing scant interest, turnout was slightly less than 14% of registered, according to the secretary of state's office. 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.
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, facing no real competition, easily won Kentucky's GOP primary with 117,396 votes, or 67%. More important to his campaign was the pickup of 42 delegates for the Republican National Convention.
President Barack Obama had no Democratic opponent. Even so, with little to drive Democrats to the voting booths, Obama received 119,277 votes, or 58%, while 42% of voters marked their ballots "uncommitted."
In 67 of the state's 120 counties, more voters marked their ballots uncommitted than voted for Obama.
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."
The Republican congressional nominee in the 4th District will be the overwhelming favorite to win the November general election. The seat, centered in the suburbs just south of Cincinnati, has been held by the GOP since 1967, except for a 6-year stint between 1999 and 2005 when Democrat Ken Lucas served. The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, is retiring.
The 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 she was bothered 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% of precincts reporting, Adkins had 17,185 votes or 69%, to 7,862 votes for Frank or 31%.
In the 6th District, Republican Andy Barr earned the right Tuesday to a rematch against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in this fall's general election by besting his GOP opponents.
Barr lost a squeaker to Chandler two years ago and has been planning the sequel ever since. He swamped fellow Republicans Patrick Kelly and Curtis Kenimer on Tuesday.
In other fall congressional races, Republican incumbent Ed Whitfield will face Democrat Charles Hatchett in the 1st District. Republican incumbent Brett Guthrie will face Democrat David Lynn Williams in the 2nd. Democratic incumbent John Yarmuth will face Republican Brooks Wicker in the 3rd. And Republican incumbent Hal Rogers will face Democrat Kenneth Stepp in the 5th.
Associated Press reporters Brett Barrouquere and Dylan Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report.
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