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 projects.
Amy McGrath, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, has a slight edge in a tougher-than-expected challenge from state representative Charles Booker. With less than 10 percent of the vote in as of 11:30 p.m. ET, McGrath leads Booker by slightly over 2,000 votes. Those votes only include one cast at the polls on Tuesday and none of the mail-in ballots have been counted yet.
Democratic enthusiasm for McGrath was high when she first entered the Senate race last year, and she raised $2.5 million in her first 24 hours. That enthusiasm quickly cooled when she said in an interview with The Courier-Journal, 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.”
McGrath continued her fundraising prowess, and as of June 3rd, 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 only entered the U.S. Senate race in January, used late momentum to overtake the much better funded McGrath and has had raised $793,000 by that point.
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 and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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.
McGrath was also backed by several establishment Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “I believe that she’ll give McConnell a run for his money,” Schumer said last week.
In New York, longtime New York Rep. Eliot Engel is in a tough fight for reelection as he tries to fend off an aggressive primary challenge from Jamaal Bowman, a progressive candidate running in his first ever political campaign.
Bowman has a big early lead, according to NBC News projections, but like in Kentucky, officials have not begun to tally mail-in ballots.
Bowman’s fight over Engel in New York’s 16th District is being compared to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset win over longtime Rep. Joe Crowley in the 14th District in 2018.
Bowman’s bid was also helped by Engel, who found himself in on the defensive after getting caught on a hot mic earlier this month pleading to speak at a press event involving unrest and vandalism in his district after the death of George Floyd.
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” the House Foreign Affairs committee chair was heard telling Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx borough president. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Bowman over her congressional colleague earlier this month.
Engel, who’s represented the 16th since 1989, was backed by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.