Democratic Senate primary reaches finish line in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — After a weeklong wait, Kentucky Democrats prepared to find out Tuesday whether Charles Booker or Amy McGrath will get the party’s nomination to challenge Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the fall.

The lead switched back and forth between McGrath and Booker as results trickled in since the state’s June 23 primary election. Most voters cast mail-in absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it took election officials all week to count and record the ballots.

County clerks had a Tuesday deadline to submit vote totals to the secretary of state’s office.

McGrath had appeared to be coasting toward the nomination as the former Marine pilot raised huge amounts of campaign cash and exchanged attacks with McConnell in what seemed a prelude to the fall campaign. But the Democratic contest in this GOP-dominated state turned volatile when Booker, a Black state lawmaker, seized momentum in the final weeks.

Booker’s profile surged amid national protests over the deaths of African Americans in encounters with police, including the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police. Booker touted a universal basic income and Medicare for All — ideas that McGrath has resisted. His progressive stances won him support from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., among others.

McGrath charted a more moderate course inside Democratic politics. She supports adding a public health insurance option as part of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act and supports expanded access to Medicare for people 55 and older.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will be a decided underdog against McConnell in a state where President Donald Trump remains popular.

McConnell, who coasted to victory in the GOP primary in his bid for a seventh term, portrays both of his potential challengers as too liberal for Kentucky.