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Progressive Booker, moderate McGrath locked in tight Kentucky Senate primary

30 Jun 2020 Reuters

(Reuters) - Two Kentucky Democrats locked in a tight race for the nomination to take on Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November were set to learn the results of last week’s voting on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Kentucky State Representative and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Charles Booker arrives at a campaign stop on the day of the primary election in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston - RC25FH9GTP1I/File Photo

Preliminary results from the June 23 primary showed a too-close-to-call contest between Black progressive Charles Booker and establishment favorite Amy McGrath, as election officials had to wait until Saturday to receive all ballots cast by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. State officials said they would not release the complete results until Tuesday evening.

But with all votes counted in Jefferson County, which includes the city of Louisville, the Kentucky State Board of Elections said Booker had captured 59.1% of the vote to McGrath’s 35%.

There were partial results in Fayette County, home of the city of Lexington, where Booker held a smaller lead.

Democrats in Kentucky’s two big cities tend to be more liberal than in other parts of the state where McGrath could perform better.

McGrath, a former combat pilot who was endorsed by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and raised $41 million in campaign funds, has long been considered the frontrunner.

But in recent weeks, Booker, who has vowed to unite Kentuckians of all races “from the hood to the holler,” saw his prospects rise as protests against police brutality spread nationwide.

Booker, a 35-year-old state legislator, took part in marches in Louisville over the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot by police investigators who burst into her home in March.

Two of the three major U.S. nonpartisan elections ratings services showed the seat as “likely” safe for McConnell, the second-securest rating. One rated it the most secure “solid” Republican.

Many Democrats detest McConnell for long standing in the way of Democrats’ initiatives in Congress and backing Republican President Donald Trump.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone, Sonya Hepinstall and Bernadette Baum

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