Booker edges ahead of McGrath in too-close-to-call Kentucky Senate Democratic primary

The winner will go up against Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.
Image: Charles Booker
Senate candidate Charles Booker at a campaign stop at Pikeville City Park in Pikeville, Ky., on June 22, 2020.Ryan C. Hermens / Lexington Herald-Leader via AP

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By Adam Edelman

Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker has edged ahead of Amy McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, in the state’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary race to determine who takes on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

With 12 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Booker, whose candidacy has received the support of progressive lawmakers and groups around the country, led McGrath 44.4 percent to 40.4 percent, or by just over 2,700 votes, according to NBC News.

The race remains too close to call, NBC News projects.

The current tally includes only votes cast in person at the polls on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots that will likely determine the outcome of the race have not yet been counted and will not be for days.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Booker said, “We’re going to have to wait a few days for final results, but we are fired up by what we’re already seeing in the early returns."

"We feel like we’re in a strong position to bring this home once every vote is counted," he added.

The latest results show that another 2 percent of precincts have been counted, most of which appear to be from Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, where Booker is from. About 7.5 percent of the vote in Jefferson County has been tallied.

As recently as Wednesday evening, with 10 percent of precincts reporting, McGrath led Booker 44 percent to 39.6 percent, a margin of slightly over 2,000 votes.

The Kentucky secretary of state said that 161,238 people voted in-person on Tuesday. By Tuesday morning, 530,196 of the 867,842 ballots sent out before the election had already been returned. Any mail-in ballot postmarked by Tuesday will be counted.

McGrath, who is backed by several establishment Democrats, saw an early surge of enthusiasm for her candidacy after she launched her campaign last year.

As of June 3, she had raised over $41 million, according to the most recent filings. But 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, 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 Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., among others.