Amy McGrath fended off Charles Booker to clinch the Democratic nomination for Senate in Kentucky, setting up an expensive showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.
McGrath had 45 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent for Booker when The Associated Press called the race on Tuesday — a week after the primary, which saw historic turnout and significant use of absentee ballots.
Though she was the frontrunner throughout the race, McGrath faced a spirited challenge from Booker, a liberal first-term state representative who surged in momentum in just three short weeks to turn the race from a sleepy affair into one of the most closely-watched Senate primaries this year.
Booker’s rise began late last month as he took part in protests against police brutality in his hometown of Louisville. Major leaders from the party’s left wing, from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, endorsed him in the closing weeks. He already had support from state legislators and other Kentucky Democrats, but more in-state supporters jumped off the sidelines down the stretch.
But McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who was backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, had a superior organization and massive fundraising advantage that proved too much to overcome. She raised more than $40 million ahead of the primary, significantly outraising Booker and even McConnell. She spent more than $12 million on TV in the race, compared to less than $2 million from Booker, and her campaign won significant margins in the state’s rural counties outside Louisville and Lexington.
Most of her spending focused on McConnell, as McGrath essentially ran a general-election campaign against him for months, even after Booker joined the race in January.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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