KEY POINTS

  • Former Marine pilot Amy McGrath was declared the winner of the Kentucky Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate and will be the Democrats nominee challenging incumbant Mitch McConnell in November
  • McGrath beat out insurgent candidate Charles Booker in an extremely close race which saw the lead traded multiple times as votes were counted over a week after the June 23 primary
  • Most political analysts agree McGrath faces an uphill battle against McConnell between now and the November elections

After nearly a week of tallying votes from across the state, Amy McGrath on Tuesday was declared the winner of Kentucky’s Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate. She will move on to challenge longtime incumbent and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the November elections.

Despite being the longstanding favorite to win, McGrath faced an unexpected challenge from Charles Booker in the last month of their campaigns. The two traded the lead back and forth for nearly a week before McGrath secured the nomination with 45% of the vote to Booker’s 42%.

McGrath, 45, a former Marine pilot who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, declared her candidacy for the 2020 Kentucky Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate in July of 2019. She quickly gained the support of labor unions across the state, along with Democrats in and out of Kentucky. Her momentum was reflected in fundraising, managing to raise more money than McConnell between January and March of 2020.

McGrath’s moderate stances are considered crucial in winning over Kentucky voters. In 2019, Kentucky elected a moderate Democrat Andy Beshear in a tight gubernatorial race.

As the primary drew closer, Booker emerged as a stronger candidate. The 35-year-old serves in the Kentucky House of Representatives and was notably endorsed by fellow progressives Sen. Bernie Sanders, D.-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Booker featured prominently in the Black Lives Matter protests, which helped earn him a sizeable chunk of the vote in cities. However, it was not enough to beat out the foothold McGrath was able to secure for herself in Kentucky’s rural areas.

McGrath faces a well-recognized Republican in November. McConnell, 78, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, has among the highest disapproval ratings among senators, according to Morning Consult.

People waited for hours on June 9, 2020 to vote in Georgia's primary election People waited for hours on June 9, 2020 to vote in Georgia's primary election Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Elijah Nouvelage