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McGrath To Face McConnell In November Race For U.S. Senate

Becca Schimmel | WKU Public Radio

Retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath has won Kentucky’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and will take on Mitch McConnell in the fall after a close race with progressive state Rep. Charles Booker.

The results came in a week after Kentucky’s primary election, allowing local election officials to count mail-in ballots, which accounted for about three-quarters of all votes submitted during election.

Booker garnered a majority of votes in the state’s two most populous counties, Jefferson and Fayette, winning by more than 35,000 votes in his hometown of Louisville.

But McGrath cobbled together statewide support, winning a majority of Kentucky’s mostly-rural counties while still winning enough votes in urban areas like Lexington and northern Kentucky.

McGrath grew up in northern Kentucky and spent 20 years in the military, becoming the first woman to fly in an F/A-18 fighter jet in combat. She also worked as a foreign affairs adviser to Congress and taught political science in the Naval Academy.

After retiring from the military, McGrath moved to Georgetown, Kentucky and ran for the state’s 6th Congressional district in 2018, narrowly losing the race to incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Barr.

McGrath was recruited by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in this year’s Senate race. She has already proven to be a prolific fundraiser in the race, raising $41 million as of the beginning of June.

But McGrath also stumbled during the primary election — initially saying she would have confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, then reversing the position, and more progressive opponents criticized her for being too “soft” on President Donald Trump.
Charles Booker made a late surge in the primary, seizing the moment amid protests over racism and police violence in his hometown of Louisville.

The last-minute sprint allowed Booker to raise more money during the last month of the election than he had during the entire race until that point, and create deep support in his hometown of Louisville.

But the late momentum wasn’t enough against McGrath’s campaign juggernaut, which launched a full six months before Booker announced his candidacy and helped her build statewide name recognition.

McGrath will now take on McConnell in the November General Election. McConnell is seeking his seventh term in the U.S. Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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