Republican George Allen handily defeated three opponents in Virginia's U.S. Senate primary Tuesday, officially launching the long-awaited heavyweight match against Democrat Tim Kaine in what will be one of the nation's most closely watched races this fall.
Allen had 65 percent of the vote in unofficial returns, a victory that validated his political comeback after losing his Senate seat to Democrat Sen. Jim Webb in 2006.
"Thousands of Virginians sent a message to President Obama, Tim Kaine and their allies in Washington that they have had enough of the failed policies coming out of Washington," Allen said. "This November, Virginians have a choice between two very different futures."
Allen and Kaine are both former governors and skilled debaters with strong statewide political operations and prominent backers. The two have run neck and neck in virtually every poll, and their high-profile political battle is expected to attract millions of dollars in outside spending.
Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke had more than 20 percent of the vote against Allen, unofficial returns showed. Del. Bob Marshall of Manassas and Chesapeake pastor E.W. Jackson were both still short of double digits in early returns.
In other Virginia races, Democratic Rep. Jim Moran staved off a primary challenge from former Navy pilot Bruce Shuttleworth in the eighth District. Moran will seek a 12th term this fall against Republican Patrick Murray.
Retired Army Col. Chris Perkins defeated engineer Ken Vaughn in the 11th District Republican primary and will face Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly in November.
With Tuesday's election behind them, the highly anticipated Allen-Kaine matchup begins, though in truth the two contenders have largely focused their campaigns on each other over the past year. Kaine, unopposed for the Democratic nomination, was more frequently targeted by Allen during the primary campaign than any of Allen's Republican opponents.
While Allen is expected to target Kaine's ties to President Obama over the next five months, Kaine intends to attack Allen for supporting massive spending programs during his first Senate term.
"George Allen's approach helped create our economic mess," Kaine said Tuesday night. "Virginians can't afford six more years."