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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
HARDIN COUNTY — At least among Democratic voters, this is Clinton country, never mind the longshot odds.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won Hardin County by 23 percentage points, according to an unofficial tally, and carried Kentucky by 35 in Tuesday’s presidential primary. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, though, expected to garner a majority of overall pledged delegates with the help of a victory in Oregon’s mail-in election Tuesday. He is considered the likely nominee to face Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in the November general election.
McCain garnered 69 percent of the vote in Hardin County and about 73 percent statewide.
Clinton may have received a local boost when her husband, Bill, campaigned here Thursday. It was the first presidential visit to the county since Dwight Eisenhower. Obama campaigned little in the state.
Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won the votes of whites, who made up almost 90 percent of those who cast ballots in the state Tuesday, according to exit interviews. She also won all age groups and income levels. Obama usually does well with the young and well-educated.
In the Democratic primary for the 2nd U.S. Congressional District, state Sen. David Boswell of Owensboro beat Daviess County-Judge-Executive Reid Haire with a 59-41 percent tally. A busy Boswell won Hardin County by about the same margin.
“We ran a six-month campaign in 30 days,” Boswell said. “I’m just elated.”
Boswell credited the support of “hard working people” throughout Hardin County with doing well locally. The county is expected to be a battleground because it’s the only one of the district’s three population centers that isn’t home to one of the candidates.
He will face state Sen. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, in the general election.
This is the first time since 1994 that a Hardin County resident won’t be representing the central Kentucky district. Ron Lewis, R-Cecilia, withdrew from the race at the last minute.
Eight Democrats vied for U.S. Senate race nomination. Bruce Lunsford won both Hardin County and the state with roughly 50 percent of the vote.
On the GOP side, truck driver Daniel Essek lost a longshot bid against incumbent Mitch McConnell — one of the nation’s top Republicans — by 72 percentage points.
In another race, Democrat Jimmie Lee, an incumbent state representative from Elizabethtown, beat Glenn Fonda with 80 percent of the vote. Lee also beat Fonda in a primary two years ago by a wide margin in the 25th District race.
“I was happy to see that most of my base was still there as it was in 2006,” Lee said. He credited the Democratic presidential race with creating “a little more interest,” he said. “I was well-satisfied with the outcome.”
Lee also said the primary got people excited about the fall election and helped him raise money. He faces Republican challenger Lisa Williams in November.
Turnout Tuesday in Hardin County was relatively high — 28.3 percent.
“It exceeded our anticipation,” Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb said. Four years ago, only 11 percent of eligible voters turned out.
As for the November general election, Secretary of State Trey Grayson last week guessed 65 percent of voters will participate.
Tabb on Tuesday reported “very few problems” with voting.
This was the first election the county used new paper ballot scanners, which have been touted as speeding up both voting and tallying of ballots.
Results were in by 8 p.m. Tuesday, which is a couple of hours earlier than in previous elections.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746. The Associated Press contributed to this story.