Amy McGrath survived her primary against Charles Booker...barely...but she ended up winning by 2.8% in a race where she was ahead by 20% at one point.
Former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath held off a surging Rep. Charles Booker Tuesday to win the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky a week after ballots were cast, setting up a big money showdown with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.
Booker, who won 42.6 percent of the vote, won Kentucky’s three largest cities — Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green — but the more liberal voters in those cities weren’t enough. McGrath surrounded Booker, winning victories throughout rural Kentucky to win 45.4 percent of the vote.
“While each of our experiences are unique, as a woman in the military, I had to repeatedly fight the establishment during my 20-year career,” McGrath wrote Tuesday in a statement declaring victory. ”...A year after showing the country that Kentucky won’t hesitate to replace an incompetent and unpopular incumbent Republican like Matt Bevin, let’s do it one more time.”
Booker conceded the race in an emailed statement shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, noting that he had only narrowly lost after being a relative unknown when he entered the race. He said that meant Kentucky was ready for “big, bold solutions.”
“From this moment on, let’s take the frustration we feel and commit to fighting for change like never before,” Booker wrote. “Let’s dedicate to the work of beating Mitch, so that we can get him out of the way. Yes, I would love to be your nominee, but know I’m still by your side. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”
It was an unusual primary. Delayed by a month over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, then conducted largely via absentee ballot, Kentuckians were left waiting a full week after Election Day for results.
McConnell’s campaign greeted the news by saying it was “great to have” McGrath in the general election.
“Extreme Amy McGrath is lucky to have gotten out of the primary with a victory, but her reputation sustained significant damage all across Kentucky,” said Kate Cooksey, McConnell’s spokeswoman. “McGrath is just another tool of the Washington Democratic establishment who has no idea what matters most to Kentuckians.”
I fully expect Mitch to run another lazy campaign tying McGrath to Pelosi, Biden, the Clintons and Obama, complete with "Will Washington liberal Joe Biden dare show his face in Kentucky?" and count on McGrath's unforced errors to win.
Sadly, he'll most likely win as a result. What I fear is that McGrath is going to make the same mistakes Alison Lundergan Grimes did in 2014, as Joe Sonka's postmortem from six years ago details.
There isn’t a Kentucky political reporter whose opinion I respect more than CNHI’s Ronnie Ellis, who says one of the biggest errors of Grimes’ campaign was not putting ads on the air during McConnell’s primary fight with Matt Bevin so she could fully introduce herself to voters. The only problem with that theory is it assumes she ever fully introduced herself to voters at any point in the campaign. To a large extent, she never did.
Grimes’ reluctance to give in-depth interviews has been written about extensively, as well as her robotic talking-point answers that too often failed to provide detail on her positions. (I only received eight minutes to interview her in the entire campaign, and she didn’t directly answer a single question.) This was surprising to many who covered her 2011 race for secretary of state, where she came across as intelligent, candid and warm.
There were only about six things people knew about Alison Lundergan Grimes from this campaign, and she repeated them – and little else – over and over again. She is for increasing the minimum wage. She is for gender pay equity legislation and the Violence Against Women Act. She is for union rights. She is for creating jobs in Kentucky. She is not Mitch McConnell, who is against all of these things. She is for coal and gun rights, and she is not Barack Obama.
There were some other policies she mentioned and some details here or there, but they were never effectively presented. How many Kentuckians read her jobs plan, or knew how she was going to pay for any of its proposals?
Nor were voters given any real glimpse into who Grimes is as an individual. The fabulous writer Anne Marshall attempted to answer that last question in her profile of Grimes for Louisville Magazine, but was repeatedly stymied at the gates of the Grimes bubble. When Marshall asked Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst to provide an interesting nugget about Grimes that few people know, he replied, “She loves Swedish Fish.” Eventually Marshall got her very quick interview with Grimes and talked about some personal details, but those were limited to subscribers to the magazine, and buried within a story that quite correctly portrayed her as a talking point machine that remains a mystery to many voters.
McGrath is in the same bubble now that Grimes was then.
She has to break out of it, and that means embracing Charles Booker and several of his policies. If she runs a defensive campaign, she will lose and lose badly.
It's time to go after Mitch, and go after him hard.