LOS ANGELES — Hillary Clinton held a slight lead over Bernie Sanders in the Kentucky primary on Tuesday, as the waning weeks of the Democratic contest have turned particularly bitter among supporters and surrogates.
The race was still close to call with about 99% of the votes counted. Clinton claimed victory late Tuesday.
Sanders won the primary in Oregon, in line with expectations that the state’s liberal voting base was expected to favor the Vermont senator.
Speaking to supporters in Carson, Calif., where backers lined up hours before his event at a tennis stadium, Sanders said that “we are in until the last ballot is cast.”
He predicted victory in California, which holds its primary on June 7.
But Clinton’s apparent victory in Kentucky is a rebound from losses to Sanders in recent primaries in West Virginia and Indiana. A loss would have been embarrassing for her campaign, although it wouldn’t have disrupted her path to the nomination.
Some of Clinton’s supporters are expressing increasing frustration with Sanders, particularly after last weekend’s chaotic state convention in Nevada. Sanders supporters booed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), one reportedly threw a chair, and the state party leader complained of receiving death threats.
In a statement on Tuesday, Sanders said that the Democratic leadership in Nevada “used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.” He also called the claim that his campaign “has a penchant for violence” “nonsense.”
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN that she was “deeply disturbed” by what happened in Nevada, and called Sanders response “anything but acceptable.”
Clinton’s backers increasingly worry that Sanders’ presence in the race, even when his chances of capturing the nomination are very slim, is only exacerbating divisions and preventing her from focusing on the general election and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
The acrimony among Democrats has been an increasing media focus in recent days, with questions of whether the rifts could spill over into the Democratic Convention in July.
It also is a bit ironic, in that much of the media attention throughout the primary has been of rifts within the GOP and whether there would be a contested convention.
Instead, Trump is on the cusp of clinching the nomination.
On Tuesday, Trump, whose rivals have all dropped out or suspended their campaign, won in Oregon and now is fewer than 100 delegates from securing the nomination.
The heated nature of the race was reflected in some of the reactions to celebrity supporters.
“I believe Sen Sanders has right 2fight 2 Dem convention,but when I saw video footage of Nevada violence ,it looked More Like Trump Rally,” Cher tweeted on Monday. She, too, got some nasty tweets back.
I believe Sen Sanders has right 2fight 2 Dem convention,but when I saw video footage of Nevada violence ,it looked More Like Trump Rally
— Cher (@cher) May 17, 2016
“If people always gave up when their chances got slim, we would’nt have heroes. Or progress. Or a 4 minute mile,” Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, wrote in a tweet.
If people always gave up when their chances got slim, we would'nt have heroes. Or progress. Or a 4 minute mile https://t.co/3c4DBmhD4o
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) May 18, 2016