Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes won the race for secretary of state Tuesday, easily turning back a challenge from Todd County businessman Bill Johnson.
Grimes, 32, won more votes than any other Democrat on Tuesday's ballot.
It was the first bid for public office by Grimes, a Lexington lawyer, though she grew up steeped in politics as the daughter of former state Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan.
Johnson, who was identified with the Tea Party movement, ran for the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate nomination for a time but dropped out.
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Grimes piled up a massive fund-raising edge in the race, taking in $476,000 in contributions from mid-May through late October compared to $63,000 for Johnson. She had $360,000 to spend in the final weeks of the campaign, while Johnson had only $39,600, finance reports showed.
Grimes said her win was about her message, not the campaign money.
She made improving the economy a key part of her campaign.
"They're hungry for someone who can help create jobs," Grimes said of Kentuckians. "They're tired of the scare tactics. They want leaders with sound solutions."
Johnson, 45, who owns a small airplane-repair business, also said he didn't think money made the difference. Women may have been energized to vote for Grimes, he said, and low turnout might have hurt Republicans.
It also appears incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear's convincing win helped other Democrats, Johnson said.
The secretary of state is Kentucky's chief election officer and the official in charge of recording business incorporations and land filings.
Grimes and Johnson both said they wanted to streamline the process of incorporating a business and boost voter turnout, but differed widely on other issues.
For instance, Johnson said he favored requiring people to show photo identification before voting in order to deter potential vote fraud. Grimes said such a rule would be a barrier to voting for minorities, senior citizens and others less likely to have such identification.
Grimes' goals as secretary of state include updating business and election laws, increasing voting access for veterans and protecting the identity of domestic-violence victims in registration records.
Grimes will replace Democrat Elaine Walker, a former Bowling Green mayor appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear in January after Republican Trey Grayson resigned to take a post at Harvard.