WASHINGTON — Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., decisively turned back the first well-financed primary opponent he had faced since being elected in 1984, defeating a tea party-backed conservative who claimed the Senate minority leader had been too willing to compromise with Democrats.
Once thought to be vulnerable to such a challenge from the right, McConnell won with ease over his opponent, the businessman Matt Bevin. McConnell's victory sets up what will be one of the most serious tests of his political career, a general election matchup against the Democratic nominee, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the secretary of state. It is expected to be the costliest Senate race this year.
Kentucky was one of six states holding primaries on Tuesday. Voters in Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Oregon also went to the polls.
In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, whose father, Sam Nunn, was a four-term Democratic senator, easily outpaced her Democratic rivals and awaited the outcome of the GOP primary to learn her opponent for the fall.
Setting up a high-profile race in Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, were unopposed for their parties' nominations.
In Kentucky, McConnell easily defeated Bevin, underscoring one of the main lessons emerging from the young primary season: Even in an era of deep dissatisfaction with Washington, political fundamentals like candidate strength, fundraising and incumbency remain paramount.
McConnell spent over $11 million of the nearly $22 million he has stockpiled to cast himself as an effective conservative and to attack Bevin, who had never run for office before.
Bevin criticized McConnell for having been in Washington too long, but McConnell emphasized what his 30 years in the Senate meant for Kentucky.
With Sen. John Cornyn of Texas having won renomination in March, McConnell's victory is the second time this year that an incumbent GOP senator survived a primary threat with ease.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.