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McConnell, Grimes to face off for Kentucky Senate seat

Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes won their respective primaries Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his wife Elaine Chao depart after voting in the state Republican primary at Bellarmine University on May 20, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bested tea party challenger Matt Bevin to win the Republican nomination Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, according to the Associated Press. 

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes won the Democratic primary. She and McConnell will face off in the general election in November. Grimes was long considered the front-runner. She represents one of Democrats' best hopes in picking up a Republican Senate seat.

McConnell congratulated Bevin on a "hard-fought campaign" and called on Kentucky Republicans to unite.

"This race has always been much bigger than one candidate," McConnell said in his victory speech. "It’s about the kind of state we want. It’s about the kind of country we want. It’s about restoring America. And it starts tonight." 

Even though McConnell stayed ahead in the polls leading up to primary, Bevin forced the longtime senator to spend early and fend off attacks from the right that could come back to hurt him in a race against Grimes that starts Wednesday.

A recent Bluegrass Poll showed McConnell and Grimes in a statistical dead heat in a head-to-head match-up.

In his concession speech, Bevin said he has no intention of "supporting the Democrat platform over that of the Republican platform."

"There is much that ails us as a nation, as a state, as communities, as individuals, in our homes, in our schools, in our churches." Solutions to those problems, he continued, could only be solved by Republican ideals.

Conservatives who had initially opposed McConnell came out in support of him after Tuesday's win, NBC News' Mark Murray reported.