Amy McGrath wins Kentucky Democratic primary

Yolanda Curtis
June 30, 2020

Former Marine pilot Amy McGrath overcame a bumpier-than-expected Kentucky primary to win the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination Tuesday, fending off progressive Charles Booker to set up a bruising, big-spending showdown with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Booker, who is Black, touted a universal basic income and Medicare for All - ideas that McGrath has resisted.

While McGrath maintained a big fundraising lead throughout the primary - raising almost $41 million - Booker's late popularity helped the campaign raise an additional $2.4 million since June 1, about triple his previous fundraising total. 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.

Booker held a narrow advantage over McGrath in a large field based on early and in-person totals released a week ago. With roughly 90 percent of the vote counted, McGrath led Booker by less than 2 points, garnering almost 227,000 votes to Booker's almost 219,000.

Results from the race were delayed by widespread absentee voting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since last summer, McConnell and McGrath looked past their primaries to skirmish with each other.

Harnessing the energy of the protests and the party's liberal wing, with endorsements from progressive darlings, Sen.

Booker's profile surged amid national protests over the deaths of Black Americans in encounters with police, including the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

McGrath, who in 2018 had run for Congress unsuccessfully in Kentucky, raised tens of millions of dollars for the Senate race, and had the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. According to Open Secrets, more than 96 percent of McGrath's fundraising came from out of state, versus 54 percent for Booker.

Since McGrath entered the race, she and McConnell have gone toe-to-toe in attack ad campaigns.

"Extreme Amy McGrath is lucky to have gotten out of the primary with a victory, but her reputation sustained significant damage all across Kentucky", Cooksey said.

McConnell accuses her of being too liberal for Kentucky on issues ranging from abortion to border security. He also won the backing of former Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes-who lost to McConnell in 2014-as well as the Louisville Courier Journal and Lexington Herald Leader. McGrath has said she would have voted to convict Trump on both impeachment counts.

McConnell led the effort to defend the president after House Democrats impeached him.

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