LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cruised to the Republican nomination Tuesday night in pursuit of a seventh term, but his general election challenger might not be known for days as Kentucky awaits the outcome of a competitive Democratic primary.
McConnell, the nation’s top-ranking congressional Republican, dispatched a group of little-known GOP challengers in the unprecedented primary. Much of the state’s electorate cast mail-in absentee ballots — an accommodation made to the coronavirus pandemic.
On the Democratic side, well-funded Amy McGrath and progressive Charles Booker, a freshman state lawmaker, were leading a crowded field. The race was too early to call Tuesday night and the outcome could be in limbo for up to a week as officials await complete results.
McConnell wasted no time in framing the fall race as he claimed victory in the GOP primary.
“Kentuckians have a huge choice this year regarding the path of our nation,” he said in a statement Tuesday night. “Do we choose to follow Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and other Washington Democrats down the path towards socialism? I sure hope not. Instead, I am confident Kentuckians will choose expanding freedom, creating jobs and upholding our conservative values.”
In Louisville, Booker and a gathering of supporters chanted ’’from the hood to the holler” — the slogan he hoped would help build a coalition of urban Blacks and rural whites. Having gone from a longshot to formidable, Booker declared: “We have the opportunity to transform history.”
In a statement, McGrath urged everyone to “get a little rest, recharge your battery and buckle up for what’s next.” The mission, she said, was to unseat McConnell.
Democrats can point to Gov. Andy Beshear’s victory over an embattled GOP incumbent in last year's gubernatorial race as reason for hope in a state dominated by Republicans.
McConnell has aligned himself with President Donald Trump, helping him put conservatives on the federal bench, cut taxes and navigate a Senate impeachment trial that led to Trump’s acquittal.