Kentucky Senate primary race to decide who challenges Mitch McConnell too close to call

Dareh Gregorian
Kentucky's primary race between Democratic candidates remains too close to call

The Kentucky primary race between Democratic candidates to decide who takes on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November is too close to call, NBC News projected.

Amy McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, had a slight edge in a tougher-than-expected challenge from state Rep. Charles Booker. With less than 10 percent of the vote at 11:30 p.m. ET, McGrath led Booker by slightly over 2,000 votes. Those votes include only ones cast at the polls Tuesday; none of the mail-in ballots have been counted yet.

Amy McGrath address supporters after her loss during her Election Night Event at the EKU Center for the Arts on November 6, 2018 in Richmond, Kentucky.
Jason Davis | Getty Images

Democratic enthusiasm for McGrath was high when she entered the race last year, and she raised $2.5 million in her first 24 hours. The enthusiasm quickly cooled when she said in an interview with The Courier-Journal of Louisville that "I probably would have voted" to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who's widely loathed by Democrats. She later tweeted that "upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no."

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McGrath continued her fundraising prowess, and as of June 3 she had raised over $41 million, according to the most recent fundraising filings. She had to dip into that money for ads to fight off a late surge from Booker, who supports "Medicare for All," the Green New Deal and universal basic income and campaigned against inequality and racial injustice.

Booker, who entered the race only in January, rode late momentum to overtake the much better-funded McGrath and had raised $793,000 by that point.

Kentucky State Representative and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Charles Booker greets John Wright, of Louisville, during a campaign stop on the day of the primary election in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 23, 2020.
Bryan Woolston | Reuters

Booker joined protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville woman who was shot dead in her apartment on March 13 by police executing a "no-knock" warrant, and netted endorsements from the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Booker also made an issue of McGrath's failure to protest — leading her to air an ad decrying the death of George Floyd. Booker noted that she didn't mention Taylor in the ad.