LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway won re-election Tuesday night, defeating a Republican prosecutor who tried to turn the race into a referendum on federal issues -- including the national health care law and the incumbent's refusal to challenge it.
Conway focused on state issues, taking credit for a crackdown on cybercrime and Medicaid fraud, while opponent Todd P'Pool tried to connect Conway with President Barack Obama, who has been unpopular in Kentucky.
With 57 percent of precincts reporting, Conway had 351,559, or 57 percent of the vote, to P'Pool's 266,625, or 43 percent.
P'Pool constantly criticized Conway for refusing to add Kentucky to the legal challenge against Obama's health care law.
More than half the states are part of the challenge that claims Congress overstepped its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty on their taxes, beginning in 2014. The case appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Conway said he wasn't going to reassign staff attorneys from Kentucky-specific matters to deal with the federal issue.
P'Pool, in his second term as the Hopkins County attorney in western Kentucky, had also vowed to aggressively challenge federal regulations he sees as burdensome for such key Kentucky sectors as coal and agriculture.
Conway portrayed himself as an activist attorney general. He said his cybercrimes unit has taken 300,000 child porn images off the Internet. He pointed to his prescription pill task force as part of the law enforcement offensive aimed at curbing abuse of prescribed medications. He said his office's intervention in utility rate cases saved ratepayers large sums.
The race to be Kentucky's chief law enforcement officer drew attention from national Republicans as the GOP tried to inflict another loss on Conway, whose political stock tumbled a year ago when he was defeated by Republican Rand Paul in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.
P'Pool campaigned with two former GOP presidential candidates, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee and was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The tone of the campaign turned especially bitter and personal late in the race when P'Pool ran a TV ad suggesting that Conway had taken an improper role in a drug investigation of the incumbent's brother
Conway countered with an ad accusing P'Pool of "completely distorting the facts" to try to fool voters. Looking into the camera, Conway said he told his brother to take responsibility for his potential legal problem. Conway concluded by telling P'Pool he could "say what you want about me, but my family shouldn't be part of this campaign."