updated 8/4/2004 11:19:28 AM ET 2004-08-04T15:19:28

John Ramsey came up short Tuesday in his bid for a state House seat after a campaign shadowed by the unsolved murder of his daughter, JonBenet.

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Ramsey placed second among six candidates for the Republican nomination in the largely rural district in northern Michigan. He had 4,684 votes, or 24 percent, trailing attorney Kevin Elsenheimer by about 500 votes. Elsenheimer had 27 percent of the vote.

A cloud of suspicion has hung over Ramsey and his wife since the 1996 slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet, but no one has ever been charged. The district attorney and a federal judge in Colorado have said it is likelier that an intruder was responsible, as the parents insist.

Ramsey did not shy away from the JonBenet issue on the campaign trail, and the notoriety of the case helped give him nearly 100 percent name recognition in the district. Ramsey’s presence also transformed the campaign into a high-profile race that has drawn coverage from the likes of CNN and People magazine.

While his rivals complained about the attention Ramsey received, he tried to focus on local issues such as economic growth. But he often spoke of JonBenet, saying her loss and the death of another daughter in a 1992 car crash had made him more compassionate.

“We have made many new friends in this journey and ... we have gotten to know our old friends better,” he said. “That’s the true gift of this campaign.”

The Ramseys have had a summer place since 1992 in this Lake Michigan tourist town about 230 miles northwest of Detroit, and became full-time residents last fall.

“I think people are definitely voting for the local person,” Elsenheimer said as the results came in.

Elsenheimer will be favored in November in the GOP-leaning district.

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