Senate Democratic primary heads to finish line in Kentucky

Henrietta Strickland
June 30, 2020

Election Day was June 23, but due to a flood of absentee ballots, results were held for a week as they were tabulated.

Former Marine pilot Amy McGrath is projected to narrowly win the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary, beating progressive Charles Booker to challenge Sen.

Although voting in the state ended on June 23, McGrath was declared the victor a week later due to the race's tight margins and a surge of mail-in ballots. He gained momentum amid the protests that followed the deaths of George Floyd and of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Booker's hometown of Louisville.

"Extreme Amy McGrath is lucky to have gotten out of the primary with a victory, but her reputation sustained significant damage all across Kentucky", said Kate Cooksey, a spokesperson for McConnell's campaign. The Associated Press declared her the victor with 89 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday afternoon, where she had a almost 9,500-vote advantage over Booker.

The race had remained too close to call on Election Day last week as many absentee ballots had yet to be counted.

McConnell, who is seeking a seventh term, easily prevailed in the Republican primary last week. McGrath, backed by the Democratic establishment, had raked in over $40 million by the start of June, leveling the playing field between her and always-well-funded McConnell.

The race crystallized an ongoing debate among national Democrats over the right strategy to pursue in red states such as Kentucky: nominate a centrist candidate (preferably with a military background) who can peel off Republican voters at the margin, or a progressive candidate (especially one of color, like Booker) who can motivate Black voters. McGrath favors a public option and a Medicare buy-in for those over the age of 55, rather than overhauling the U.S. health care system with a single-payer program.

She portrays McConnell as an overly partisan, Washington insider who exemplifies what's wrong with national politics. She accuses McConnell of undermining labor unions, awarding tax cuts for the wealthy and cozying up to pharmaceutical companies while people struggle to afford prescription drugs. McConnell's campaign has said McGrath is too liberal for Kentucky, on issues from abortion to border security. He promotes his work with President Donald Trump - who remains popular in Kentucky - to appoint conservatives to fill federal court seats.

Public polling in the race had been scarce, but one survey released earlier this month showed Booker with an eight-point lead.

"The mission to defeat Mitch McConnell and defend our democracy goes on", she said. She accused of the GOP-led Senate of lacking "the guts" to put a check on "out-of-control presidential power".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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