LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday.

The primary election lacks any marquee contest for statewide office, and the state’s top elections officer has predicted a light turnout.

The libertarian-minded Massie, known as an avid deficit hawk and gun-rights supporter, is being challenged by Eric Deters and Michael McGinnis in the 4th District’s GOP primary. The district stretches across northern Kentucky and encompasses a mix of rural and suburban voters.

Massie’s greatest notoriety has come from the times he defied his party’s leaders — from Donald Trump to House Speaker Mike Johnson — without so far being punished by his constituents.

Massie sounded unconcerned about any blowback from voters for joining the recent effort to oust the Republican House speaker — nicknamed “MAGA Mike Johnson” by Trump. The former president remains enormously popular in the district. The effort to oust Johnson was overwhelmingly rejected by the House.

“It’s a lot of inside baseball and ultimately, because he’s still the speaker, I think a lot of people don’t care,” Massie said in a recent interview.

The race for the White House — headlined by Democratic President Joe Biden and Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee — is at the top of Bluegrass State ballots, followed by congressional and legislative contests in a state that has tilted decidedly toward Republicans. The most notable exception was Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s reelection win last year.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams predicted low participation in the statewide primary, which included three days of early, in-person voting last week.

“I think our primaries are increasingly important, though, because as the state gets more polarized geographically — as Louisville gets more blue and Lexington gets more blue and the rural areas get more red — increasingly the primary is the general (election),” Adams said last week.

“And so if you have 10 or 15% turnout in your primary, those people are picking our leaders,” he added.

No Democrat is running for Congress in the 4th District, leaving a clear lane in November for the GOP primary winner. Massie has routinely won reelection by lopsided margins since joining Congress in late 2012, despite being a magnet for controversy at times.

Four years ago, Massie drew Trump’s wrath when the congressman singlehandedly caused a delay in passing a massive COVID-19 relief package. Trump called the Kentuckian a “third rate Grandstander.” Despite the presidential smackdown, Massie cruised to reelection that year. Two years later, Massie picked up the former president’s endorsement on his way to another reelection victory.

“They still appreciate somebody who will come up here and vote the way he believes is best, even if it’s at odds with Trump sometimes,” Massie said of his constituents. “So that’s sort of my brand at this point.”

In another twist, Massie supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed bid for the White House, again risking Trump’s anger. The ex-president didn’t give an endorsement in Massie’s primary race this year.

Deters is the congressman’s best-known challenger, having run for governor last year, when he finished fourth in the crowded GOP primary. Deters played up his steadfast support for Trump in trying to make inroads against Massie, and he portrayed Massie as a “goofball” lacking accomplishments in Congress.

McGinnis said he’s running to “fix Congress, fix the budget process, cut wasteful spending, fix the immigration system and ‘drain the swamp,’” playing up some of Trump’s themes.

Elsewhere, the dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, faces three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. Rep. Morgan McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. GOP Reps. James Comer, Brett Guthrie and Andy Barr are unopposed in the primary.

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