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Specter loses primary bid for sixth Senate term

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter has been defeated in a Pennsylvania primary in his bid for a sixth term after taking the risky step of switching to the Democratic Party.

Voters Tuesday picked U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak as the party's nominee and rejected the 80-year-old Specter in his first Democratic campaign.

The vote also was a defeat for President Barack Obama, who supported Specter when he abandoned the GOP last year.

Also Tuesday, political novice Rand Paul rode support from tea party activists to a rout in Kentucky's Republican Senate primary, jolting the GOP establishment.

Another Democratic incumbent, Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, led narrowly in early returns in her race for nomination to a third term, but she risked being thrown into a runoff.

Paul had 59 percent of the vote with returns counted from 29 percent of the precincts, compared with 37 percent for Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who was recruited to the race by the state's dominant Republican, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a Kentucky Democratic primary that commanded far less national attention, Attorney General Jack Conway defeated Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo for Senate.

In another race with national implications, Democrat Mark Critz moved ahead of Republican Tim Burns in a contest 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 was something of a bellwether for the fall.

Democratic voters in Pennsylvania picked Dan Onorato for governor. Oregon also was selecting a gubernatorial candidate.

In Kentucky, Grayson had the support of McConnell as well as other establishment figures. But Paul, the son of Rep. Ron Paul, a former presidential contender, 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. According to his website, Paul, 47 and an ophthalmologist, is a "career doctor, not a politician."

The race marked the third time that tea party activists have placed their stamp on Republican races.

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