By Susan Cornwell
June 30 – Kentucky voters will learn on Tuesday which Democrat will challenge Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November: Black progressive Charles Booker, or establishment favorite Amy McGrath.
Preliminary results from the June 23 primary showed a too-close-to-call contest, and election officials had to wait until Saturday to receive all ballots cast by mail due to the coronavirus. State officials said they would not release the complete results until Tuesday evening.
McGrath, a former combat pilot who was endorsed by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and raised $41 million in campaign funds, was long thought of as the frontrunner. A moderate, she stressed in ads that she was the “only candidate who can win” against McConnell.
But in recent weeks Booker, who vowed to unite Kentuckians of all races “from the hood to the holler,” saw his prospects rise as protests against police brutality spread nationwide, including to Louisville, the state’s largest city.
Booker, a 35-year-old state legislator, took part in marches in Louisville over the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed when police investigators burst into her home in March.
Booker sought on Monday to dispel the idea that he was like the Bibilical “David”, with only an outside chance to beat “Goliath” McConnell, a conservative senator for over 30 years and the longest-serving Republican Senate leader in history.
Two of the three major U.S. nonpartisan elections ratings services showed the seat as “likely” safe for McConnell, the second-securest rating. One rated it the most-secure “solid” Republican.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, called McConnell the “big favorite” to win re-election, regardless of who his opponent turns out to be.
“The objective data suggest that McConnell would be favored against either Democrat,” Sabato said. “The majority leader’s electoral record can’t be ignored.”
Many Democrats detest McConnell for long standing in the way of Democrats’ initiatives in Congress and staunchly backing Republican President Donald Trump. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone and Sonya Hepinstall)