Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway hung on Tuesday night to eke out the Democratic Senate nomination against Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.
With 99 percent reporting, the Associated Press finally called the contest with 44.2 percent for Conway and 43 percent for Mongiardo.
Conway had built a sizable lead early in the evening, especially after early returns came in from his base in Louisville. But Mongiardo narrowed the gap steadily as returns came in from the more rural parts of the state. But in the end, it just wasn’t enough for Mongiardo, who came 2 points shy of winning the Senate seat when he ran against Sen. Jim Bunning (R) in 2004.
The Democratic Senate contest was overshadowed in most national media by the high-profile battle on the Republican side of the aisle that had drawn in national party leaders. But in Kentucky, the race between Conway and Mongiardo had become a nasty affair in which the two men weren’t afraid to take personal shots at each other. Conway’s toughest attacks against the lieutenant governor were over his large travel expenses that he billed to the state and his alleged abuse of a state housing stipend.
Most of the state party establishment had lined up with Conway in the primary, although Mongiardo could claim an endorsement from Gov. Steve Beshear (D). But the governor’s support was tepid at best. Beshear’s endorsement was announced in a news release and never came with any help on the campaign trail.
Conway’s victory was built on a strong showing among the heavily Democratic population in and around his Louisville base. In Jefferson County, which contains Louisville, Conway earned 30,000 more votes than the lieutenant governor.
Conway was also able to dig just deep enough into Mongiardo’s base in eastern Kentucky to secure victory. In the heavily Democratic Pike and Floyd counties, Conway appeared on track to hold Mongiardo under 60 percent.