US Election 2016

Paul Ryan primary: US House speaker fends off Republican challenge

Paul Ryan speaks inside the Armory in Janesville. 9 Aug 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption Paul Ryan thanked his supporters following his victory

US House speaker Paul Ryan comfortably overcame a Republican primary challenge in the state of Wisconsin on Tuesday.

With all votes counted in the first congressional district, Mr Ryan had 84.1% of the vote with his rival Paul Nehlen trailing on 15.9%.

The contest made headlines when Donald Trump initially backed Mr Nehlen.

The Republican presidential nominee refused for three days to back the House speaker, and praised Mr Nehlen, a water company executive.

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"I'm humbled and honoured that Wisconsinites in the 1st Congressional District support my efforts to keep fighting on their behalf,'' Mr Ryan said in a statement to the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Ryan remains very popular in his home state, where he has kept close ties. But the intervention of Mr Trump a week ago put the spotlight on this primary contest.

Mr Nehlen's supporters pointed to the unseating of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia in 2014, by college teacher David Brat, as evidence that surprises can happen.

Speaking ahead of the result, several voters in Mr Ryan's hometown of Janesville said they backed him.

Bob and Maureen Becker said Mr Ryan, who is the highest ranked elected Republican in the country, went to high school with their daughters.

"To me it was a no-brainer," Bob Becker told the Janesville Gazette.

But some voters disagreed. Joanne Simenson said Ryan was "a big spender, just like the rest of them" and said it was important to "send a message" by backing Mr Nehlen.