McConnell rival takes slim lead in too-close-to-call Ky. primary

McConnell rival takes slim lead in too-close-to-call Ky. primary
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The brutal and closely watched primary battle between Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for governor in Kentucky will continue, with the race remaining too close to call late Tuesday night.
 
Matt Bevin, the businessman and Tea party darling who unsuccessfully challenged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a primary last year, finished the night with an 83-vote lead over state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
 
Comer said he will request a recount.
 
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Bevin and Comer each took nearly 33 percent support, followed by Hal Heiner, the former Louisville Metro Council member, in third place with 27 percent support.
 
The eventual winner will advance to the general election to face Attorney General Jack Conway (D), who crushed his Democratic primary opponent, retired engineer Geoff Young, by 60 percentage points.
 
Democrats in the state cheered the split Republican outcome.
 
"The brutal Republican primary slugfest that has been called the ‘nastiest race of 2015’ is continuing, which will make it even harder for the eventual nominee to unify their fractured party,” a spokesperson for the Kentucky Democratic Party said in a statement. 
 
“Here’s what we know tonight: Republicans will eventually nominate Bevin — who Sen. McConnell’s former top aide said 'can't be trusted and is essentially running to satisfy his ego’ — or Comer, who won the award for worst TV clip of the primary when he failed to defend his vote supersizing his taxpayer-funded pension. Stay tuned.” 
 
The race has attracted national headlines on a number of fronts.
 
Bevin has the highest national profile of the bunch for his contentious primary challenge against McConnell last year.
 
That election split Republican loyalties in the state, with former Tea Party stars like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) backing the establishment candidate McConnell.
 
The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), came to Bevin’s defense, but many outside conservative groups remained on the sidelines, and McConnell ultimately romped to victory, taking about 60 percent of the vote.
 
If Bevin’s lead holds in the gubernatorial primary — and if he can defeat Conway in the general election — it could create an awkward political situation in the Bluegrass State, with McConnell’s former rival assuming the role of top Republican.
 
Paul, who backed McConnell in the Senate primary race, quickly moved to show his support for Bevin, tweeting congratulations to him while the outcome remained undecided. Paul later deleted the tweet when it became evident the race would drag on beyond Tuesday.
 
The GOP primary also grabbed national headlines for a nasty spat between Comer and Heiner.
 
A woman in Kentucky has accused Comer of physically assaulting her when the two dated as students at Western Kentucky University.
 
Comer denied the allegations, and later accused the Heiner campaign of pushing the allegations through a blogger with connections to the campaign.
 
Heiner initially denied that anyone in his campaign played a role in promoting the allegations, but later apologized “if anyone associated with my campaign is involved.”
 
Their ugly and protracted personal dispute provided the opening Bevin needed to emerge from the group. The three have been neck-and-neck in the polls for months heading up to Tuesday.