Attorney Mike Lee has won the Republican Senate primary in Utah, the Associated Press projects, defeating businessman Tim Bridgewater after they had jointly knocked out incumbent GOP Sen. Bob Bennett last month.
With 84% of precincts reporting, Lee leads Bridgewater by 52%-48%. Bennett was eliminated at his state Republican convention in May, due in part to anger among the regular grassroots over his vote for TARP, combined with the new rise of anti-incumbent Tea Party activism. Lee and Bridgewater then went on to face each other in a primary, as neither received the 60% delegate vote needed to clinch the nomination outright. Bridgewater very nearly took the nomination with 57% of the delegates, but Lee was able to win tonight.
After the convention, Bennett subsequently endorsed Bridgewater, choosing from among the two opponents who had previously defeated him, while groups such as the Tea Party Express backed Lee — with the latter winning out. Lee is heavily favored to win election in this deep-red state, which voted for John McCain by a 63%-34% margin in 2008, and last voted for a Democratic Senator in 1970.