Amy McGrath vs. Charles Booker: McGrath Wins Kentucky Senate Primary

Retired Navy fighter pilot Amy McGrath will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this fall after winning a closer-than-expected primary against progressive challenger Charles Booker.

The primaries proved to be very biting to the end, with Booker and McGrath advancing through various stages of vote counting. Booker dominated in Jefferson County, his area of ​​residence around Louisville and a key area for Democrats. But ultimately, a weaker margin outside Lexington was not enough to offset McGrath’s presentation in rural areas outside of the two cities.

Even though Kentucky election day was held on June 23, a large number of absentee votes made it impossible to know the state results until a full week later. Vox Partner Decision Desk called the race on June 30, around 11:15 am The week of delays could serve as a preview of the November general election, if it’s close.

The Kentucky Senate race was one of the few primaries on June 23 in which a young progressive black candidate failed to win. Black candidates had a lot of wins in the competitive House primaries in New York and Virginia on Election Night. But Booker still got much closer than most political experts in and out of state would have believed a year ago, or even a few months ago.

McGrath is the moderate candidate backed by the Democratic Party and a fundraising giant. Even if the national party believes it is the best to face McConnell, it is still the least favored in a remote race. McConnell is arguably the most powerful man in Congress and a Kentucky political institution who has been in office since 1985. His political savvy helped him rise through the ranks of the chamber to become the leader of the Senate Republicans and now leader of the Senate majority.

McConnell is something of a sackman for Democrats, who despise him for measures like denying a hearing to Merrick Garland to President Obama’s Supreme Court, or delaying the vast majority of House bills in the Senate to prioritize filling the federal judiciary with 200 conservative judges, thus remodeling courts for a generation.

When the National Democrats approached McGrath to run against McConnell, they thought that if anyone could beat him, a veteran Marine Corps woman with 20 years of military service would be a good bet. (Although she lost her attempt to change a Kentucky red light district in 2018.) A mid-May poll showed McGrath led McConnell by 1 percent, but otherwise, general election polls have been rare.

Despite spending most of his laser-focused primary care at McConnell, McGrath had a serious major challenge with Booker, the youngest black legislator in Kentucky. Booker’s campaign started with little warning, but it suddenly exploded as protests surrounding police brutality engulfed Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky. McGrath was criticized for not appearing at the protests until she attended a vigil on June 8. But ultimately, Booker’s sudden surge wasn’t enough to overcome McGrath’s lead in name recognition and fundraising. The rise in Booker’s campaign also started after some Kentucky voters had voted absentee, though it’s hard to know how much impact it might have had on the result.

Perhaps taking advantage of Democrats’ displeasure at McConnell, McGrath has been raising money to raise funds. He has raised more than $ 40 million since entering the race, more than the Republican incumbent has raised. McGrath has been the benefactor of Democratic donors who would like nothing more than to see McConnell missing; 96 percent of their donations are from donors in other states, according to OpenSecrets.

McGrath will need that money to take on McConnell, but it will also take a carefully executed strategy to beat him in a state that Donald Trump won by 30 points in 2016 and where he still enjoys a net approval rating of 17 percent. Trump is sure to win Kentucky in 2020, so the best Democrats can hope for is a divided ticket scenario where pro-Trump voters don’t cast their vote for McConnell. Democrats also hope to be able to replicate Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s 2019 playbook of changing some suburban areas around the blue hubs of Louisville and Lexington that saw huge Democratic turnout.

McGrath’s campaign manager Mark Nickolas recently told Vox that the campaign is ready to play McConnell’s game in the general election.

McConnell “is a guy who is battle-tested and relies on his bad narrative. He likes to be the devil,” Nickolas said. “You have to rethink what a campaign is. You have to be willing to do innovative things in politics.”

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