Kentucky votes on which Democrat will face Mitch McConnell

Long regarded as a shoo-in to progress to a confrontation with Republican Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in November, McGrath has increasingly focused his attention on progressive primary rival Charles Booker, a Kentucky state representative gaining momentum. , and national attention, later. of the police murders of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. (Mike Broihier, a retired marine who advocates universal basic income, is also running for the nomination.)

The state has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford’s reelection in 1992. He gave President Donald Trump a 30-point victory in 2016. None of the Democratic candidates would be favored to beat McConnell, the Kentucky senator with the most years of service.

But McGrath’s supporters believe she would have a better chance. McGrath has raised more than $ 40 million, a staggering figure, and is supported by the Democratic Senate campaign arm, a number of unions, and others who are drawn to his background as a former fighter pilot who flew in combat for the Marine Corps. They note that their moderate views are more aligned with the traditional Kentucky electorate than Booker, who supports the Green New Deal (often referred to as the “Kentucky New Deal”), universal basic income, and “Medicare for everyone”. McGrath, in turn, favors a public option and a Medicare purchase for those 55 and older, rather than overhauling the US healthcare system. USA With a single payer program.

McGrath’s campaign has focused on McConnell, trying to portray him as a Washington swamp monster who cares more about Wall Street and his special interests than his own constituents. McConnell’s campaign sees McGrath as an “extreme liberal” whose campaign will waste millions of dollars from Democrats.

“I am focused on the message I have received from the beginning,” McGrath told CNN last week, “which from day one is: We need someone to confront Senator Mitch McConnell, who will simply do the right thing for Kentucky and to our country “.

But Booker, the youngest Black Kentucky legislator at 35, comes from one of the poorest ZIP codes in the state and has argued that his message is unique for the moment. Her role in the protests that followed the Taylor murder, and McGrath’s absence at the start of the anti-racism protests in Kentucky, has contributed to the notion that the primary might be closer than anyone expected even a month ago. .

Booker’s campaign has attracted a belated wave of support, and with it, small dollar donations, from progressives across the country, including the backing of figures like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who initially voiced their support for McGrath and the representative from New York. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones, who considered running for the Senate, also endorsed Booker.

Candidates prepare for a long night, if not a long week, to hear the results. State election officials drastically limited the number of polling places in person from just under 3,700 places in a typical election to 170 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Voting rights activists say the changes could lead to time lines and possible deprivation of rights for black voters. The community’s two most populous counties, Jefferson and Fayette, the houses of Louisville and Lexington, will each have an in-person voting center open on Tuesday.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams has dismissed election concerns by noting the number of ballots cast in absentia and during early voting. He has also noted that the current rules were part of a deal with Kentucky Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. Adams’ office said Monday that it had issued more than 867,311 mail ballots in the primary election, while just over half, 442,919, were returned.

Both Booker and McGrath have addressed the voting issues, but the insurgent challenger has been much more public as he covers the state and constantly makes himself available to the media.

“It’s not right. And we’ve seen it in other parts of the country, it’s not excusable at all,” Booker told CNN. “We are better than this. This is not what democracy is all about. It should be easy for your voice to be heard.”

CNN’s Dan Merica, Eric Bradner and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.