Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Connecticut, NBC News projected, claiming a narrow victory Tuesday over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in a state where she campaigned on pledges to address gun violence.
The former U.S. secretary of state had the support of top elected Democrats, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. She evoked the 2012 Newtown school shootings in appearances and television ads, including one featuring an endorsement by a daughter of the slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal.
NBC News reported that Donald Trump easily won the GOP primary in a state where he drew thousands of enthusiastic voters to three boisterous rallies, in Hartford, Waterbury and Bridgeport.
On the gun issue, about 3 out of 5 voters favored Clinton, according to preliminary exit poll results. Clinton has proposed comprehensive federal background check requirements, including for gun show and Internet sales, and repealing certain immunity protections for the gun industry, among other provisions.
Also, about 3 of 5 Democratic voters said Clinton is the candidate better suited to beat businessman Donald Trump in the November election.
Rita Pulliam, a 62-year-old personal care assistant from Willimantic and recovering drug addict, said she's also very concerned about recent state cuts, including to drug treatment programs, and believes Clinton could help restore funding as president.
"I feel Hillary is more connected to the common people, like myself," she said.
Connecticut Democrats immediately pounced on Trump's victory, saying his "divisive message" is part of the state GOP.
Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were vying for 25 of the state's 28 delegates, which will be distributed proportionally. The remaining three votes will be cast by J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, and the state GOP's national committeeman and national committeewoman.
"Donald Trump's resounding victory in today's primary is surprising to no one, but it is yet another reminder of just how extreme Connecticut's Republican Party has become," said Chairman Nicholas Balletto.
Gale Whalley, a 66-year-old retiree from Bozrah, said she wants to see Trump in the White House.
"He's bold and he's not afraid to stand up for this country. He's not afraid to say what he wants," Whalley said.
The state reported a surge in voter registrations ahead of the primary.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said the statewide average turnout was more than 26 percent, with all but 41 towns reporting. The turnout exceeded the end-of-the-day average for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. There was no Democratic primary that year.
"Certainly, in some areas of the state, it seems very high," Merrill said, adding South Windsor had 42 percent turnout by 2 p.m., while turnout was light in Bridgeport at midday.
There were scattered reports of problems at the polls, including towns that ran out of ballots and problematic voting machines.
For the Democratic candidates, 55 of the state's 71 delegates will be up for grabs. The delegates will be distributed mostly on a proportional basis.