ABC News Projects Rand Paul to Win Kentucky Senate Race

November 2, 2010 Updated Nov 2, 2010 at 7:58 PM EDT

By Russell Goldman (ABC News)

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ABC News Projects Rand Paul to Win Kentucky Senate Race

November 2, 2010 Updated Nov 2, 2010 at 7:58 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW/ABC) - ABC News projects Republican Rand Paul will win the Kentucky Senate race, based on the exit poll, in what is the first major victory of the night for the Tea Party movement.

Paul's victory over Democrat Jack Conway is seen as an early indication of Republicans return to prominence in Congress and a sign of the Tea Party movement's growing political influence.

"There is a Tea-Party tidal wave coming to Washington," Paul told reporters after casting his ballot this morning.

An ophthalmologist and son of libertarian Congressman Rep. Ron Paul, R- Texas, Paul, 47, became an early face of the Tea Party movement when he secured the nomination in May. But he quickly learned what played to the base in the primary would not work in the general election.

Early in his campaign Paul questioned the federal income tax and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that banned segregation in public places, and called on courts to reconsider the 14th Amendment's provision for granting citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. -- including children of illegal immigrants.

Referring the BP oil spill that dominated headlines and ravaged the coastal states along the Gulf of Mexico this summer, Paul said, "Sometimes, accidents happen."

As the campaign progressed, however, he switched tacks, shying away from voicing controversial opinions and instead attacking President Obama and big government.

More from ABCNews.com here.