KEY POINTS

  • Democratic Senate hopeful Amy McGrath has been challenged by a late-stage surge by insurgent candidate Charles Booker ahead of the Kentucky Democratic Primary
  • Booker is riding a wave of strong fundraising in June coupled with high-profile endorsements from Kentucky's largest newspaper and progressives Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Whomever wins is expected to face a tough challenge in November against the entrenched Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Kentucky State Rep. Charles Booker has emerged as an insurgent candidate to challenge Democratic Senate hopeful Amy McGrath ahead of the Kentucky primary.

Since declaring her candidacy in 2019, McGrath has been considered the clear favorite for the Democratic Senate nominee to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The former Marine pilot’s national identity has grown since a high-profile House race against incumbent Rep. Andy Barr in 2018, which she lost by less than 10,000 votes.

McGrath has also proven to be an effective fundraiser, reportedly raising $11.3 million between April and June for her campaign. McConnell, on the other hand, raised $7.2 million in the same period.

However, Booker has managed to gain greater exposure before the Democratic primary on June 23. The biggest boon was an endorsement from the Louisville Courier-Journal, citing Booker’s progressive positions and saying they believed McGrath was “overly moderate” with an uninspired campaign message attacking McConnell.

“Our informed choice is clear: Charles Booker is the kind of political leader and change agent that our commonwealth needs,” the Courier-Journal Editorial Board said in its endorsement. “We believe he is worthy of the Democratic nomination.”

Booker has also been endorsed by notable progressives Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The endorsements were doubled with a strong fundraising surge, raising over $700,000 in the first week of June. It has since crossed $1 million in the final days of the Democratic nominee race.

The Democratic nominee is still expected to face a very difficult battle come November against McConnell.

“When you run against Mitch McConnell liberal donors from New York and California make sure your pockets are full, but they can't do anything for McGrath's invisible political support in Kentucky,” McConnell’s campaign manager Kevin Golden said in a statement. “She has spent more money than any Democrat in Kentucky's history, and there's a good chance she doesn't even make it out of the primary.”

The US Senate is the focus of negoations on a massive coronavirus economic support package The US Senate is the focus of negoations on a massive coronavirus economic support package Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB