LEXINGTON, Ky. — Alison Lundergan Grimes has won Kentucky’s Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, setting up a highly anticipated race with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell in November.
Kentucky’s secretary of state easily won Tuesday’s vote. She looks to be McConnell’s toughest opponent since his first election in 1984, when he narrowly ousted Democrat Dee Huddleston. Recent polls show the two locked in a virtual tie.
The daughter of a former state party chairman and close personal friend of the Clintons, Grimes has raised $8 million since announcing her candidacy last year. She has about $5 million left.
To win, Grimes will have to separate herself from a Democratic president who is unpopular with more than 60 percent of Kentucky voters. In ads and campaign stops, Grimes has fashioned herself as an independent Kentucky woman.
McConnell has defeated millionaire businessman Matt Bevin in an expensive and bruising primary election
McConnell has been one of President Barack Obama’s fiercest critics, but Bevin accused the longtime senator of not being conservative enough.
Bevin spent $3.3 million in his bid as a political newcomer backed by various tea party groups. McConnell drowned him out with more than $9 million in spending. Outside groups spent millions more defending his conservative credentials.
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.